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Title: Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 
Author: Thomas William Rolleston 
Release Date: October 16, 2010 [Ebook 34081] 
Language: English 



Queen Maev 





British edition published by Constable and Company Limited, 

First published 1911 by George G. Harrap & Co., London 



The Past may be forgotten, but it never dies. The elements which 
in the most remote times have entered into a nation's composition 
endure through all its history, and help to mould that history, and 
to stamp the character and genius of the people. 

The examination, therefore, of these elements, and the 
recognition, as far as possible, of the part they have actually 
contributed to the warp and weft of a nation's life, must be a 
matter of no small interest and importance to those who realise 
that the present is the child of the past, and the future of the 
present; who will not regard themselves, their kinsfolk, and 
their fellow-citizens as mere transitory phantoms, hurrying from 
darkness into darkness, but who know that, in them, a vast 
historic stream of national life is passing from its distant and 
mysterious origin towards a future which is largely conditioned 
by all the past wanderings of that human stream, but which 
is also, in no small degree, what they, by their courage, their 
patriotism, their knowledge, and their understanding, choose to 
make it. 

The part played by the Celtic race as a formative influence 
in the history, the literature, and the art of the people inhabiting 
the British Islands — a people which from that centre has spread 
its dominions over so vast an area of the earth's surface — has 
been unduly obscured in popular thought. For this the current 
use of the term "Anglo-Saxon" applied to the British people 
as a designation of race is largely responsible. Historically the 
term is quite misleading. There is nothing to justify this singling 

2 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

out of two Low-German tribes when we wish to indicate the 
race-character of the British people. The use of it leads to such 
[10] absurdities as that which the writer noticed not long ago, when the 

proposed elevation by the Pope of an Irish bishop to a cardinalate 
was described in an English newspaper as being prompted by the 
desire of the head of the Catholic Church to pay a compliment to 
"the Anglo-Saxon race." 

The true term for the population of these islands, and for the 
typical and dominant part of the population of North America, 
is not Anglo-Saxon, but Anglo-Celtic. It is precisely in this 
blend of Germanic and Celtic elements that the British people 
are unique — it is precisely this blend which gives to this people 
the fire, the elan, and in literature and art the sense of style, 
colour, drama, which are not common growths of German soil, 
while at the same time it gives the deliberateness and depth, 
the reverence for ancient law and custom, and the passion for 
personal freedom, which are more or less strange to the Romance 
nations of the South of Europe. May they never become strange 
to the British Islands ! Nor is the Celtic element in these islands to 
be regarded as contributed wholly, or even very predominantly, 
by the populations of the so-called "Celtic Fringe." It is now 
well known to ethnologists that the Saxons did not by any means 
exterminate the Celtic or Celticised populations whom they found 
in possession of Great Britain. Mr. E.W.B. Nicholson, librarian 
of the Bodleian, writes in his important work "Keltic Researches" 

"Names which have not been purposely invented to describe 
race must never be taken as proof of race, but only as 
proof of community of language, or community of political 
organisation. We call a man who speaks English, lives 
in England, and bears an obviously English name (such as 
Freeman or Newton), an Englishman. Yet from the statistics 
[ii] of 'relative nigrescence' there is good reason to believe that 

Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, 


Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Cambridgeshire, 
Wiltshire, Somerset, and part of Sussex are as Keltic as 
Perthshire and North Munster; that Cheshire, Shropshire, 
Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Devon, Dorset, 
Northamptonshire, Huntingdonshire, and Bedfordshire are 
more so — and equal to North Wales and Leinster; while 
Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire exceed even this degree, 
and are on a level with South Wales and Ulster." 1 

It is, then, for an Anglo-Celtic, not an "Anglo-Saxon," people 
that this account of the early history, the religion, and the mythical 
and romantic literature of the Celtic race is written. It is hoped 
that that people will find in it things worthy to be remembered 
as contributions to the general stock of European culture, but 
worthy above all to be borne in mind by those who have inherited 
more than have any other living people of the blood, the instincts 
and the genius of the Celt. 

In reference to the name "Freeman," Mr. Nicholson adds: "No one was 
more intensely 'English' in his sympathies than the great historian of that name, 
and probably no one would have more strenuously resisted the suggestion that 
he might be of Welsh descent; yet I have met his close physical counterpart in 
a Welsh farmer (named Evans) living within a few minutes of Pwllheli." 









Queen Maev ii 

Prehistoric Tumulus at New Grange 40 

Stone Alignments at Kermaris, Carnac 44 

S tone- worship at Locronan, Brittany 51 


Earliest References 

In the chronicles of the classical nations for about five hundred 
years previous to the Christian era there are frequent references 
to a people associated with these nations, sometimes in peace, 
sometimes in war, and evidently occupying a position of great 
strength and influence in the Terra Incognita of Mid-Europe. 
This people is called by the Greeks the Hyperboreans or Celts, 
the latter term being first found in the geographer Hecatsesus, 
about 500 B.C. 2 

Herodotus, about half a century later, speaks of the Celts as 
dwelling "beyond the pillars of Hercules" — i.e., in Spain — and 
also of the Danube as rising in their country. 


2 He speaks of "Nyrax, a Celtic city," and "Massalia [Marseilles], a city of 
Liguria in the land of the Celts" ("Fragmenta Hist. Grasc"). 

8 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Aristotle knew that they dwelt "beyond Spain," that they had 
captured Rome, and that they set great store by warlike power. 
References other than geographical are occasionally met with 
even in early writers. Hellanicus of Lesbos, an historian of the 
fifth century B.C., describes the Celts as practising justice and 
righteousness. Ephorus, about 350 B.C., has three lines of verse 
about the Celts in which they are described as using "the same 
customs as the Greeks" — whatever that may mean — and being 
on the friendliest terms with that people, who established guest 
friendships among them. Plato, however, in the "Laws," classes 
the Celts among the races who are drunken and combative, and 
much barbarity is attributed to them on the occasion of their 
[18] irruption into Greece and the sacking of Delphi in the year 273 

B.C. Their attack on Rome and the sacking of that city by them 
about a century earlier is one of the landmarks of ancient history. 

The history of this people during the time when they were the 
dominant power in Mid-Europe has to be divined or reconstructed 
from scattered references, and from accounts of episodes in their 
dealings with Greece and Rome, very much as the figure of a 
primaeval monster is reconstructed by the zoologist from a few 
fossilised bones. No chronicles of their own have come down to 
us, no architectural remains have survived; a few coins, and a few 
ornaments and weapons in bronze decorated with enamel or with 
subtle and beautiful designs in chased or repousse work — these, 
and the names which often cling in strangely altered forms to the 
places where they dwelt, from the Euxine to the British Islands, 
are well-nigh all the visible traces which this once mighty power 
has left us of its civilisation and dominion. Yet from these, and 
from the accounts of classical writers, much can be deduced with 
certainty, and much more can be conjectured with a very fair 
measure of probability. The great Celtic scholar whose loss we 
have recently had to deplore, M. d'Arbois de Jubainville, has, on 
the available data, drawn a convincing outline of Celtic history 
for the period prior to their emergence into full historical light 


with the conquests of Caesar, 3 and it is this outline of which the 
main features are reproduced here. 

The True Celtic Race 

To begin with, we must dismiss the idea that Celtica was ever 
inhabited by a single pure and homogeneous race. The true Celts, 
if we accept on this point the carefully studied and elaborately 
argued conclusion of Dr. T. Rice Holmes, 4 supported by the [19] 
unanimous voice of antiquity, were a tall, fair race, warlike and 
masterful, 5 whose place of origin (as far as we can trace them) was 
somewhere about the sources of the Danube, and who spread 
their dominion both by conquest and by peaceful infiltration [20] 
over Mid-Europe, Gaul, Spain, and the British Islands. They 
did not exterminate the original prehistoric inhabitants of these 
regions — palaeolithic and neolithic races, dolmen-builders and 
workers in bronze — but they imposed on them their language, 
their arts, and their traditions, taking, no doubt, a good deal 

differ still more markedly. I remember teeing two gamekeepers in a railway 
carriage running from Inverness to Lairey. They were tall, athletic, fair men, 
evidently belonging to the Scandinavian type, which, as Dr. Beddoe says, is so 
common in the extreme north of Scotland; but both in colouring and in general 
aspect they were utterly different from the tall, fair Highlanders whom I had 
seen in Perthshire. There was not a trace of red in their hair, their long beards 
being absolutely yellow. The prevalence of red among the Celtic-speaking 
people is, it seems to me, a most striking characteristic. Not only do we find 
eleven men in every hundred whose hair is absolutely red, but underlying the 
blacks and the dark browns the lame tint is to be discovered." 

3 In his "Premiers Habitants de l'Europe," vol. ii. 

4 "Caeesar's Conquest of Gaul," pp. 251-327. 

5 The ancients were not very close observers of physical characteristics. They 
describe the Celts in almost exactly the same terms as those which they apply 
to the Germanic races. Dr. Rice Holmes is of opinion that the real difference, 
physically, lay in the fact that the fairness of the Germans was blond, and 
that of the Celts red. In an interesting passage of the work already quoted (p. 
315) he observes that, "Making every allowance for the admixture of other 
blood, which must have considerably modified the type of the original Celtic 
or Gallic invaders of these islands, we are struck by the fact that among all 
our Celtic-speaking fellow subjects there are to be found numerous specimens 

10 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

from them in return, especially, as we shall see, in the important 
matter of religion. Among these races the true Celts formed an 
aristocratic and ruling caste. In that capacity they stood, alike in 
Gaul, in Spain, in Britain, and in Ireland, in the forefront or armed 
opposition to foreign invasion. They bore the worst brunt of war, 
of confiscations, and of banishment. They never lacked valour, 
but they were not strong enough or united enough to prevail, and 
they perished in far greater proportion than the earlier populations 
whom they had themselves subjugated. But they disappeared 
also by mingling their blood with these inhabitants, whom they 
impregnated with many of their own noble and virile qualities. 
Hence it comes that the characteristics of the peoples called 
Celtic in the present day, and who carry on the Celtic tradition 
and language, are in some respects so different from those of 
the Celts of classical history and the Celts who produced the 
literature and art of ancient Ireland, and in others so strikingly 
similar. To take a physical characteristic alone, the more Celtic 
districts of the British Islands are at present marked by darkness 
of complexion, hair, &c. They are not very dark, but they are 
[21] darker than the rest of the kingdom. 6 But the true Celts were 

certainly fair. Even the Irish Celts of the twelfth century are 

of a type which also exists in those parts of Brittany which were colonised by 
British invaders, and in those parts of Gaul in which the Gallic invaders appear 
to have settled most thickly, as well as in Northern Italy, where the Celtic 
invaders were once dominant; and also by the fact that this type, even among 
the more blond representatives of it, is strikingly different, to the casual as 
well as to the scientific observer, from that of the purest representatives of the 
ancient Germans. The well-known picture of Sir David Wilkie, 'Reading of 
the Waterloo Gazette,' illustrates, as Daniel Wilson remarked, the difference 
between the two types. Put a Perthshire Highlander side by side with a Sussex 

farmer. Both will be fair; but the red hair and beard of the Scot will be in 
marked contrast with the fair hair of the Englishman, and their features will 
6 See the map of comparative nigrescence given in Ripley's "Races of 
Europe," p. 318. In France, however, the Bretons are not a dark race relatively 
to the rest of the population. They are composed partly of the ancient Gallic 
peoples and partly of settlers from Wales who were driven out by the Saxon 


described by Giraldus Cambrensis as a fair race. 
Golden Age of the Celts 

But we are anticipating, and must return to the period of the 
origins of Celtic history. As astronomers have discerned the 
existence of an unknown planet by the perturbations which it has 
caused in the courses of those already under direct observation, 
so we can discern in the fifth and fourth centuries before Christ 
the presence of a great power and of mighty movements going on 
behind a veil which will never be lifted now. This was the Golden 
Age of Celtdom in Continental Europe. During this period the 
Celts waged three great and successful wars, which had no little 
influence on the course of South European history. About 500 
B.C. they conquered Spain from the Carthaginians. A century 
later we find them engaged in the conquest of Northern Italy 
from the Etruscans. They settled in large numbers in the territory 
afterwards known as Cisalpine Gaul, where many names, such 
as Mediolanum (Milan), Addua (Adda), Viro-dunum (Verduno), 
and perhaps Cremona (creamh, garlic), 7 testify still to their 
occupation. They left a greater memorial in the chief of Latin 
poets, whose name, Vergil, appears to bear evidence of his Celtic 
ancestry. 8 Towards the end of the fourth century they overran [22] 
Pannonia, conquering the Illyrians. 

Alliances with the Greeks 

All these wars were undertaken in alliance with the Greeks, 
with whom the Celts were at this period on the friendliest terms. 
By the war with the Carthaginians the monopoly held by that 

7 See for these names Holder's "Altceltischer Sprachschatz." 

Vergil might possibly mean "the very-bright" or illustrious one, a 
natural form for a proper name. Ver in Gallic names (Vercingetorix, 
Vercassivellasimus, &c.) is often an intensive prefix, like the modern lrishfior. 
The name of the village where Vergil was born, Andes (now Pietola), is Celtic. 
His love of nature, his mysticism, and his strong feeling for a certain decorative 
quality in language and rhythm are markedly Celtic qualities. Tennyson's 
phrases for him, "landscape-lover, lord of language," are suggestive in this 

12 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

people of the trade in tin with Britain and in silver with the 
miners of Spain was broken down, and the overland route across 
France to Britain, for the sake of which the Phocseans had in 
600 B.C. created the port of Marseilles, was definitely secured to 
Greek trade. Greeks and Celts were at this period allied against 
Phoenicians and Persians. The defeat of Hamilcar by Gelon at 
Himera, in Sicily, took place in the same year as that of Xerxes at 
Salamis. The Carthaginian army in that expedition was made up 
of mercenaries from half a dozen different nations, but not a Celt 
is found in the Carthaginian ranks, and Celtic hostility must have 
counted for much in preventing the Carthaginians from lending 
help to the Persians for the overthrow of their common enemy. 
These facts show that Celtica played no small part in preserving 
the Greek type of civilisation from being overwhelmed by the 
despotisms of the East, and thus in keeping alive in Europe the 
priceless seed of freedom and humane culture. 

Alexander the Great 

When the counter-movement of Hellas against the East began 
under Alexander the Great we find the Celts again appearing as 
[23] a factor of importance. 

In the fourth century Macedon was attacked and almost 
obliterated by Thracian and Illyrian hordes. King Amyntas 
II. was defeated and driven into exile. His son Perdiccas II. was 
killed in battle. When Philip, a younger brother of Perdiccas, 
came to the obscure and tottering throne which he and his 
successors were to make the seat of a great empire he was 
powerfully aided in making head against the Illyrians by the 
conquests of the Celts in the valleys of the Danube and the Po. 
The alliance was continued, and rendered, perhaps, more formal 
in the days of Alexander. When about to undertake his conquest 
of Asia (334 B.C.) Alexander first made a compact with the Celts 
"who dwelt by the Ionian Gulf in order to secure his Greek 
dominions from attack during his absence. The episode is related 


by Ptolemy Soter in his history of the wars of Alexander. 9 It 
has a vividness which stamps it as a bit of authentic history, and 
another singular testimony to the truth of the narrative has been 
brought to light by de Jubainville. As the Celtic envoys, who 
are described as men of haughty bearing and great stature, their 
mission concluded, were drinking with the king, he asked them, 
it is said, what was the thing they, the Celts, most feared. The 
envoys replied: "We fear no man: there is but one thing that we 
fear, namely, that the sky should fall on us; but we regard nothing 
so much as the friendship of a man such as thou." Alexander 
bade them farewell, and, turning to his nobles, whispered: "What 
a vainglorious people are these Celts!" Yet the answer, for all 
its Celtic bravura and flourish, was not without both dignity [24] 
and courtesy. The reference to the falling of the sky seems to 
give a glimpse of some primitive belief or myth of which it 
is no longer possible to discover the meaning. 10 The national 
oath by which the Celts bound themselves to the observance of 
their covenant with Alexander is remarkable. "If we observe 
not this engagement," they said, "may the sky fall on us and 
crush us, may the earth gape and swallow us up, may the sea 
burst out and overwhelm us." De Jubainville draws attention 
most appositely to a passage from the "Tain Bo Cuailgne," in the 
Book of Leinster 1 1 , where the Ulster heroes declare to their king, 
who wished to leave them in battle in order to meet an attack in 
another part of the field: "Heaven is above us, and earth beneath 
us, and the sea is round about us. Unless the sky shall fall with its 
showers of stars on the ground where we are camped, or unless 

9 Ptolemy, a friend, and probably, indeed, half-brother, of Alexander, was 
doubtless present when this incident took place. His work has not survived, but 
is quoted by Arrian and other historians. 

10 One is reminded of the folk-tale about Henny Penny, who went to tell the 
king that the sky was falling. 

11 The Book of Leinster is a manuscript of the twelfth century. The version 
of the "Tain" given in it probably dates from the eighth. See de Jubainville, 
"Premiers Habitants," ii. 316. 

14 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the earth shall be rent by an earthquake, or unless the waves of 
the blue sea come over the forests of the living world, we shall 
not give ground." 12 This survival of a peculiar oath-formula for 
more than a thousand years, and its reappearance, after being first 
heard of among the Celts of Mid-Europe, in a mythical romance 
of Ireland, is certainly most curious, and, with other facts which 
we shall note hereafter, speaks strongly for the community and 
[25] persistence of Celtic culture. 13 

The Sack of Rome 

We have mentioned two of the great wars of the Continental 
Celts; we come now to the third, that with the Etruscans, which 
ultimately brought them into conflict with the greatest power of 
pagan Europe, and led to their proudest feat of arms, the sack of 
Rome. About the year 400 B.C. the Celtic Empire seems to have 
reached the height of its power. Under a king named by Livy 
Ambicatus, who was probably the head of a dominant tribe in 
a military confederacy, like the German Emperor in the present 
day, the Celts seem to have been welded into a considerable 
degree of political unity, and to have followed a consistent policy. 
Attracted by the rich land of Northern Italy, they poured down 
through the passes of the Alps, and after hard fighting with the 
Etruscan inhabitants they maintained their ground there. At this 
time the Romans were pressing on the Etruscans from below, and 
Roman and Celt were acting in definite concert and alliance. But 
the Romans, despising perhaps the Northern barbarian warriors, 
had the rashness to play them false at the siege of Clusium, 391 
B.C., a place which the Romans regarded as one of the bulwarks 
of Latium against the North. The Celts recognised Romans 
who had come to them in the sacred character of ambassadors 
fighting in the ranks of the enemy. The events which followed 
are, as they have come down to us, much mingled with legend, 

12 Dr. Douglas Hyde in his "Literary History of Ireland" (p. 7) gives a slightly 
different translation. 

13 It is also a testimony to the close accuracy of the narrative of Ptolemy. 


but there are certain touches of dramatic vividness in which the 
true character of the Celts appears distinctly recognisable. They 
applied, we are told, to Rome for satisfaction for the treachery of 
the envoys, who were three sons of Fabius Ambustus, the chief 
pontiff. The Romans refused to listen to the claim, and elected 
the Fabii military tribunes for the ensuing year. Then the Celts [26] 
abandoned the siege of Clusium and marched straight on Rome. 
The army showed perfect discipline. There was no indiscriminate 
plundering and devastation, no city or fortress was assailed. "We 
are bound for Rome" was their cry to the guards upon the walls of 
the provincial towns, who watched the host in wonder and fear as 
it rolled steadily to the south. At last they reached the river Allia, 
a few miles from Rome, where the whole available force of the 
city was ranged to meet them. The battle took place on July 18, 
390, that ill-omened dies Alliensis which long perpetuated in the 
Roman calendar the memory of the deepest shame the republic 
had ever known. The Celts turned the flank of the Roman army, 
and annihilated it in one tremendous charge. Three days later 
they were in Rome, and for nearly a year they remained masters 
of the city, or of its ruins, till a great fine had been exacted and 
full vengeance taken for the perfidy at Clusium. For nearly a 
century after the treaty thus concluded there was peace between 
the Celts and the Romans, and the breaking of that peace when 
certain Celtic tribes allied themselves with their old enemy, the 
Etruscans, in the third Samnite war was coincident with the 
breaking up of the Celtic Empire. 14 

Two questions must now be considered before we can leave 
the historical part of this Introduction. First of all, what are the 
evidences for the widespread diffusion of Celtic power in Mid- 
Europe during this period? Secondly, where were the Germanic 
peoples, and what was their position in regard to the Celts? [27] 

14 Roman history tells of various conflicts with the Celts during this period, 
but de Jubainville has shown that these narratives are almost entirely mythical. 
See "Premiers Habitants," ii. 318-323. 

16 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Celtic Place-names in Europe 

To answer these questions fully would take us (for the purposes 
of this volume) too deeply into philological discussions, which 
only the Celtic scholar can fully appreciate. The evidence will be 
found fully set forth in de Jubainville's work, already frequently 
referred to. The study of European place-names forms the basis 
of the argument. Take the Celtic name Noviomagus composed of 
two Celtic words, the adjective meaning new, and magos (Irish 
magh) a field or plain. 15 There were nine places of this name 
known in antiquity. Six were in France, among them the places 
now called Noyon, in Oise, Nijon, in Vosges, Nyons, in Drome. 
Three outside of France were Nimegue, in Belgium, Neumagen, 
in the Rhineland, and one at Speyer, in the Palatinate. 

The word dunum, so often traceable in Gaelic place-names 
in the present day (Dundalk, Dunrobin, &c), and meaning 
fortress or castle, is another typically Celtic element in European 
place-names. It occurred very frequently in France — e.g., 
Lug-dunum (Lyons), Viro-dunum (Verdun). It is also found 
in Switzerland — e.g., Minno-dunum (Moudon), Eburo-dunum 
(Yverdon) — and in the Netherlands, where the famous city of 
Leyden goes back to a Celtic Lug-dunum. In Great Britain 
the Celtic term was often changed by simple translation into 
castra; thus Camulo-dunum became Colchester, Brano-dunum 
Brancaster. In Spain and Portugal eight names terminating 
in dunum are mentioned by classical writers. In Germany 
the modern names Kempton, Karnberg, Liegnitz, go back 
respectively to the Celtic forms Cambo-dunum, Carro-aunum, 
[28] Lugi-dunum, and we find a Singi-dunum, now Belgrade, in 

Servia, a Novi-dunum, now Isaktscha, in Roumania, a Carro- 
dunum in South Russia, near the Dniester, and another in Croatia, 
now Pitsmeza. Sego-dunum, now Rodez, in France, turns up 
also in Bavaria (Wurzburg), and in England (Sege-dunum, now 

15 E.g., Moymell (magh-meala), the Plain of Honey, a Gaelic name for 
Fairyland, and many place-names. 


Wallsend, in Northumberland), and the first term, sego, is 
traceable in Segorbe (Sego-briga) in Spain. Briga is a Celtic 
word, the origin of the German burg, and equivalent in meaning 
to dunum. 

One more example: the word magos, a plain, which is very 
frequent as an element of Irish place-names, is found abundantly 
in France, and outside of France, in countries no longer Celtic, it 
appears in Switzerland {Uro-magus now Promasens), in the 
Rhineland (Broco-magus, Brumath), in the Netherlands, as 
already noted (Nimegue), in Lombardy several times, and in 

The examples given are by no means exhaustive, but they 
serve to indicate the wide diffusion of the Celts in Europe and 
their identity of language over their vast territory. 16 

Early Celtic Art 

The relics of ancient Celtic art-work tell the same story. In 
the year 1846 a great pre-Roman necropolis was discovered at 
Hallstatt, near Salzburg, in Austria. It contains relics believed 
by Dr. Arthur Evans to date from about 750 to 400 B.C. These 
relics betoken in some cases a high standard of civilisation 
and considerable commerce. Amber from the Baltic is there, 
Phoenician glass, and gold-leaf of Oriental workmanship. Iron 
swords are found whose hilts and sheaths are richly decorated 
with gold, ivory, and amber. [29] 

The Celtic culture illustrated by the remains at Hallstatt 
developed later into what is called the La Tene culture. La 
Tene was a settlement at the north-eastern end of the Lake of 
Neuchatel, and many objects of great interest have been found 
there since the site was first explored in 1858. These antiquities 
represent, according to Dr. Evans, the culminating period of 
Gaulish civilisation, and date from round about the third century 
B.C. The type of art here found must be judged in the light of an 

16 For these and many other examples see de Jubainville's "Premiers 
Habitants," ii. 255 sqq. 

1 8 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

observation recently made by Mr. Romilly Allen in his "Celtic 
Art" (p. 13): 

"The great difficulty in understanding the evolution of Celtic 
art lies in the fact that although the Celts never seem to have 
invented any new ideas, they possessed an extraordinary aptitude 
for picking up ideas from the different peoples with whom war 
or commerce brought them into contact. And once the Celt had 
borrowed an idea from his neighbours he was able to give it such 
a strong Celtic tinge that it soon became something so different 
from what it was originally as to be almost unrecognisable." 

Now what the Celt borrowed in the art-culture which on the 
Continent culminated in the La Tene relics were certain originally 
naturalistic motives for Greek ornaments, notably the palmette 
and the meander motives. But it was characteristic of the Celt 
that he avoided in his art all imitation of, or even approximation 
to, the natural forms of the plant and animal world. He reduced 
everything to pure decoration. What he enjoyed in decoration 
was the alternation of long sweeping curves and undulations 
with the concentrated energy of close-set spirals or bosses, and 
with these simple elements and with the suggestion of a few 
[30] motives derived from Greek art he elaborated a most beautiful, 

subtle, and varied system of decoration, applied to weapons, 
ornaments, and to toilet and household appliances of all kinds, 
in gold, bronze, wood, and stone, and possibly, if we had the 
means of judging, to textile fabrics also. One beautiful feature in 
the decoration of metal-work seems to have entirely originated 
in Celtica. Enamelling was unknown to the classical nations till 
they learned from the Celts. So late as the third century A.D. 
it was still strange to the classical world, as we learn from the 
reference of Philostratus: 

"They say that the barbarians who live in the ocean 
[Britons] pour these colours upon heated brass, and that they 
adhere, become hard as stone, and preserve the designs that 
are made upon them." 


Dr. J. Anderson writes in the "Proceedings of the Society of 
Antiquaries of Scotland": 

"The Gauls as well as the Britons — of the same 
Celtic stock — practised enamel-working before the Roman 
conquest. The enamel workshops of Bibracte, with their 
furnaces, crucibles, moulds, polishing-stones, and with the 
crude enamels in their various stages of preparation, have 
been recently excavated from the ruins of the city destroyed 
by Caesar and his legions. But the Bibracte enamels are the 
work of mere dabblers in the art, compared with the British 
examples. The home of the art was Britain, and the style of 
the pattern, as well as the association in which the objects 
decorated with it were found, demonstrated with certainty that 
it had reached its highest stage of indigenous development 
before it came in contact with the Roman culture." 17 

The National Museum in Dublin contains many superb 
examples of Irish decorative art in gold, bronze, and enamels, [31] 
and the "strong Celtic tinge" of which Mr. Romilly Allen speaks 
is as clearly observable there as in the relics of Hallstatt or La 

Everything, then, speaks of a community of culture, an identity 
of race-character, existing over the vast territory known to the 
ancient world as "Celtica." 

Celts and Germans 

But, as we have said before, this territory was by no means 
inhabited by the Celt alone. In particular we have to ask, who 
and where were the Germans, the Teuto-Gothic tribes, who 
eventually took the place of the Celts as the great Northern 
menace to classical civilisation? 

They are mentioned by Pytheas, the eminent Greek traveller 
and geographer, about 300 B.C., but they play no part in history 
till, under the name of Cimbri and Teu tones, they descended 

17 Quoted by Mr. Romilly Allen in "Celtic Art," p. 136. 

20 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

on Italy to be vanquished by Marius at the close of the second 
century. The ancient Greek geographers prior to Pytheas know 
nothing of them, and assign all the territories now known as 
Germanic to various Celtic tribes. 

The explanation given by de Jubainville, and based by him 
on various philological considerations, is that the Germans were 
a subject people, comparable to those "un-free tribes" who 
existed in Gaul and in ancient Ireland. They lived under the 
Celtic dominion, and had no independent political existence. 
De Jubainville finds that all the words connected with law and 
government and war which are common both to the Celtic and 
Teutonic languages were borrowed by the latter from the former. 
Chief among them are the words represented by the modern 
German Reich, empire, Amt, office, and the Gothic reiks, a king, 
all of which are of unquestioned Celtic origin. De Jubainville 
[32] also numbers among loan words from Celtic the words Bann, an 

order; Frei, free; Geisel, a hostage; Erbe, an inheritance; Werth, 
value; Weih, sacred; Magus, a slave (Gothic); Wini, a wife (Old 
High German); Skalks, Schalk, a slave (Gothic); Hathu, battle 
(Old German); Helith, Held, a hero, from the same root as the 
word Celt; Heer, an army (Celtic choris); Sieg, victory; Beute, 
booty; Burg, a castle; and many others. 

The etymological history of some of these words is interesting. 
Amt, for instance, that word of so much significance in 
modern German administration, goes back to an ancient Celtic 
ambhactos, which is compounded of the words ambi, about, 
and ados, a past participle derived from the Celtic root AG, 
meaning to act. Now ambi descends from the primitive Indo- 
European mbhi, where the initial m is a kind of vowel, afterwards 
represented in Sanscrit by a. This m vowel became n in those 
Germanic words which derive directly from the primitive Indo- 
European tongue. But the word which is now represented by amt 
appears in its earliest Germanic form as ambaht, thus making 
plain its descent from the Celtic ambhactos. 


Again, the word frei is found in its earliest Germanic form as 
frijo-s, which comes from the primitive Indo-European prijo-s. 
The word here does not, however, mean free; it means beloved 
(Sanscrit priya-s). In the Celtic language, however, we find prijos 
dropping its initial p — a difficulty in pronouncing this letter was 
a marked feature in ancient Celtic; it changed j, according to a 
regular rule, into dd, and appears in modern Welsh as rhydd=free. 
The Indo-European meaning persists in the Germanic languages 
in the name of the love-goddess, Freia, and in the word Freund, 
friend, Friede, peace. The sense borne by the word in the sphere 
of civil right is traceable to a Celtic origin, and in that sense [33] 
appears to have been a loan from Celtic. 

The German Beute, booty, plunder, has had an instructive 
history. There was a Gaulish word bodi found in compounds 
such as the place-name Segobodium (Seveux), and various 
personal and tribal names, including Boudicca, better known to 
us as the "British warrior queen," Boadicea. This word meant 
anciently "victory." But the fruits of victory are spoil, and in 
this material sense the word was adopted in German, in French 
(butiri) in Norse {byte), and the Welsh (budd). On the other 
hand, the word preserved its elevated significance in Irish. In 
the Irish translation of Chronicles xxix. 1 1 , where the Vulgate 
original has "Tua est, Domine, magnificentia et potentia et gloria 
et victoria," the word victoria is rendered by the Irish buaidh, 
and, as de Jubainville remarks, "ce n'est pas de butin qu'il s'agit." 
He goes on to say: "Buaidh has preserved in Irish, thanks to a 
vigorous and persistent literary culture, the high meaning which 
it bore in the tongue of the Gaulish aristocracy. The material 
sense of the word was alone perceived by the lower classes of 
the population, and it is the tradition of this lower class which 
has been preserved in the German, the French, and the Cymric 
languages." 18 

"Premiers Habitants," ii. 355, 356. 

22 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Two things, however, the Celts either could not or would 
not impose on the subjugated German tribes — their language and 
their religion. In these two great factors of race-unity and pride lay 
the seeds of the ultimate German uprising and overthrow of the 
Celtic supremacy. The names of the German are different from 
those of the Celtic deities, their funeral customs, with which are 
associated the deepest religious conceptions of primitive races, 
[34] are different. The Celts, or at least the dominant section of them, 

buried their dead, regarding the use of fire as a humiliation, to 
be inflicted on criminals, or upon slaves or prisoners in those 
terrible human sacrifices which are the greatest stain on their 
native culture. The Germans, on the other hand, burned their 
illustrious dead on pyres, like the early Greeks — if a pyre could 
not be afforded for the whole body, the noblest parts, such as the 
head and arms, were burned and the rest buried. 

Downfall of the Celtic Empire 

What exactly took place at the time of the German revolt we 
shall never know; certain it is, however, that from about the year 
300 B.C. onward the Celts appear to have lost whatever political 
cohesion and common purpose they had possessed. Rent asunder, 
as it were, by the upthrust of some mighty subterranean force, 
their tribes rolled down like lava-streams to the south, east, and 
west of their original home. Some found their way into Northern 
Greece, where they committed the outrage which so scandalised 
their former friends and allies in the sack of the shrine of Delphi 
(273 B.C.). Others renewed, with worse fortune, the old struggle 
with Rome, and perished in vast numbers at Sentinum (295 B.C.) 
and Lake Vadimo (283 B.C.). One detachment penetrated into 
Asia Minor, and founded the Celtic State of Galatia, where, as 
St. Jerome attests, a Celtic dialect was still spoken in the fourth 
century A.D. Others enlisted as mercenary troops with Carthage. 
A tumultuous war of Celts against scattered German tribes, or 
against other Celts who represented earlier waves of emigration 
and conquest, went on all over Mid-Europe, Gaul, and Britain. 


When this settled down Gaul and the British Islands remained 
practically the sole relics of the Celtic empire, the only countries [35] 
still under Celtic law and leadership. By the commencement of 
the Christian era Gaul and Britain had fallen under the yoke of 
Rome, and their complete Romanisation was only a question of 

Unique Historical Position of Ireland 

Ireland alone was never even visited, much less subjugated, by 
the Roman legionaries, and maintained its independence against 
all comers nominally until the close of the twelfth century, but 
for all practical purposes a good three hundred years longer. 

Ireland has therefore this unique feature of interest, that 
it carried an indigenous Celtic civilisation, Celtic institutions, 
art, and literature, and the oldest surviving form of the Celtic 
language, 19 right across the chasm which separates the antique 
from the modern world, the pagan from the Christian world, and [36] 










clumh (cluv) 






The conclusion that Irish must represent the older form of the language 
seems obvious. It is remarkable that even to a comparatively late date the Irish 
preserved their dislike to p. Thus they turned the Latin Pascha (Easter) to 
Casg; purpur, purple, to corcair, pulsatio (through French pouls) to cuisle. It 
must be noted, however, that Nicholson in his "Keltic Researches" endeavours 
to show that the so-called Indo-European p — that is, p standing alone and 
uncombined with another consonant — was pronounced by the Goidelic Celts 
at an early period. The subject can hardly be said to be cleared up yet. 
19 Irish is probably an older form of Celtic speech than Welsh. This is shown 
by many philological peculiarities of the Irish language, of which one of the 
most interesting may here be briefly referred to. The Goidelic or Gaelic Celts, 
who, according to the usual theory, first colonised the British Islands, and who 
were forced by successive waves of invasion by their Continental kindred to the 
extreme west, had a peculiar dislike to the pronunciation of the letter p. Thus 
the Indo-European particle pare, represented by Greek napd, beside or close to, 

24 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

on into the full light of modern history and observation. 
The Celtic Character 

The moral no less than the physical characteristics attributed 
by classical writers to the Celtic peoples show a remarkable 
distinctness and consistency. Much of what is said about 
them might, as we should expect, be said of any primitive 
and unlettered people, but there remains so much to differentiate 
them among the races of mankind that if these ancient references 
to the Celts could be read aloud, without mentioning the name 
of the race to whom they referred, to any person acquainted 
with it through modern history alone, he would, I think, 
without hesitation, name the Celtic peoples as the subject of 
the description which he had heard. 

Some of these references have already been quoted, and we 
need not repeat the evidence derived from Plato, Ephorus, or 
[37] Arrian. But an observation of M. Porcius Cato on the Gauls 

may be adduced. "There are two things," he says, "to which the 
Gauls are devoted — the art of war and subtlety of speech" ("rem 
militarem et argute loqui"). 

Caesar's Account 

Csesar has given us a careful and critical account of them as 
he knew them in Gaul. They were, he says, eager for battle, but 

becomes in early Celtic are, as in the name Are-morici (the Armoricans, those 
who dwell ar muir, by the sea); Are-dunum (Ardin, in France); Are-cluta, the 
place beside the Clota (Clyde), now Dumbarton; Are-taunon, in Germany (near 
the Taunus Mountains), &c. When this letter was not simply dropped it was 
usually changed into c (k, g). But about the sixth century B.C. a remarkable 
change passed over the language of the Continental Celts. They gained in 
some unexplained way the faculty for pronouncing p, and even substituted it 
for existing c sounds; thus the original Cretanis became Pretanis, Britain, the 
numeral qetuares (four) became petuares, and so forth. Celtic place-names in 
Spain show that this change must have taken place before the Celtic conquest 
of that country, 500 B.C. Now a comparison of many Irish and Welsh words 
shows distinctly this avoidance of p on the Irish side and lack of any objection 
to it on the Welsh. The following are a few illustrations: 
Irish Welsh English 


easily dashed by reverses. They were extremely superstitious, 
submitting to their Druids in all public and private affairs, and 
regarding it as the worst of punishments to be excommunicated 
and forbidden to approach thu ceremonies of religion: 

"They who are thus interdicted [for refusing to obey 
a Druidical sentence] are reckoned in the number of the 
vile and wicked; all persons avoid and fly their company 
and discourse, lest they should receive any infection by 
contagion; they are not permitted to commence a suit; neither 
is any post entrusted to them.... The Druids are generally freed 
from military service, nor do they pay taxes with the rest.... 
Encouraged by such rewards, many of their own accord come 
to their schools, and are sent by their friends and relations. 
They are said there to get by heart a great number of verses; 
some continue twenty years in their education; neither is it 
held lawful to commit these things [the Druidic doctrines] to 
writing, though in almost all public transactions and private 
accounts they use the Greek characters." 

The Gauls were eager for news, besieging merchants and 
travellers for gossip, 20 easily influenced, sanguine, credulous, [38] 
fond of change, and wavering in their counsels. They were at the 
same time remarkably acute and intelligent, very quick to seize 
upon and to imitate any contrivance they found useful. Their 
ingenuity in baffling the novel siege apparatus of the Roman 
armies is specially noticed by Csesar. Of their courage he speaks 
with great respect, attributing their scorn of death, in some 
degree at least, to their firm faith in the immortality of the soul. 21 

20 The Irish, says Edmund Spenser, in his "View of the Present State of 
Ireland," "use commonyle to send up and down to know newes, and yf any 
meet with another, his second woorde is, What newes?" 

21 Compare Spenser: "I have heard some greate warriors say, that in all the 
services which they had seen abroad in forrayne countreys, they never saw a 
more comely horseman than the Irish man, nor that cometh on more bravely 
in his charge ... they are very valiante and hardye, for the most part great 
endurours of cold, labour, hunger and all hardiness, very active and stronge of 

26 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

A people who in earlier days had again and again annihilated 
Roman armies, had sacked Rome, and who had more than once 
placed Caesar himself in positions of the utmost anxiety and peril, 
were evidently no weaklings, whatever their religious beliefs or 
practices. Caesar is not given to sentimental admiration of his 
foes, but one episode at the siege of Avaricum moves him to 
immortalise the valour of the defence. A wooden structure or 
agger had been raised by the Romans to overtop the walls, which 
had proved impregnable to the assaults of the battering-ram. The 
Gauls contrived to set this on fire. It was of the utmost moment 
to prevent the besiegers from extinguishing the flames, and a 
Gaul mounted a portion of the wall above the agger, throwing 
down upon it balls of tallow and pitch, which were handed up 
to him from within. He was soon struck down by a missile 
from a Roman catapult. Immediately another stepped over him 
[39] as he lay, and continued his comrade's task. He too fell, but 

a third instantly took his place, and a fourth; nor was this post 
ever deserted until the legionaries at last extinguished the flames 
and forced the defenders back into the town, which was finally 
captured on the following day. 

Strabo on the Celts 

The geographer and traveller Strabo, who died 24 A.D., and 
was therefore a little later than Caesar, has much to tell us about 
the Celts. He notices that their country (in this case Gaul) is 
thickly inhabited and well tilled — there is no waste of natural 
resources. The women are prolific, and notably good mothers. 
He describes the men as warlike, passionate, disputatious, easily 
provoked, but generous and unsuspicious, and easily vanquished 
by stratagem. They showed themselves eager for culture, and 
Greek letters and science had spread rapidly among them from 
Massilia; public education was established in their towns. They 
fought better on horseback than on foot, and in Strabo's time 

hand, very swift of foote, very vigilaunte and circumspect in theyr enterprises, 
very present in perrils, very great scorners of death." 


formed the flower of the Roman cavalry. They dwelt in great 
houses made of arched timbers with walls of wickerwork — no 
doubt plastered with clay and lime, as in Ireland — and thickly 
thatched. Towns of much importance were found in Gaul, and 
Csesar notes the strength of their walls, built of stone and timber. 
Both Csesar and Strabo agree that there was a very sharp division 
between the nobles and priestly or educated class on the one 
hand and the common people on the other, the latter being kept 
in strict subjection. The social division corresponds roughly, 
no doubt, to the race distinction between the true Celts and the 
aboriginal populations subdued by them. While Csesar tells us 
that the Druids taught the immortality of the soul, Strabo adds 
that they believed in the indestructibility, which implies in some [40] 
sense the divinity, of the material universe. 

The Celtic warrior loved display. Everything that gave 
brilliance and the sense of drama to life appealed to him. 
His weapons were richly ornamented, his horse-trappings were 
wrought in bronze and enamel, of design as exquisite as any 
relic of Mycenean or Cretan art, his raiment was embroidered 
with gold. The scene of the surrender of Vercingetorix, when 
his heroic struggle with Rome had come to an end on the fall of 
Alesia, is worth recording as a typically Celtic blend of chivalry 
and of what appeared to the sober-minded Romans childish 
ostentation. 22 When he saw that the cause was lost he summoned 
a tribal council, and told the assembled chiefs, whom he had led 
through a glorious though unsuccessful war, that he was ready 
to sacrifice himself for his still faithful followers — they might 
send his head to Csesar if they liked, or he would voluntarily 
surrender himself for the sake of getting easier terms for his 
countrymen. The latter alternative was chosen. Vercingetorix 
then armed himself with his most splendid weapons, decked his 

22 The scene of the surrender of Vercingetorix is not recounted by Caesar, and 
rests mainly on the authority of Plutarch and of the historian Florus, but it is 
accepted by scholars (Mommsen, Long, &c.) as historic. 

28 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

horse with its richest trappings, and, after riding thrice round the 
Roman camp, went before Caesar and laid at his feet the sword 
which was the sole remaining defence of Gallic independence. 
Caesar sent him to Rome, where he lay in prison for six years, 
and was finally put to death when Caesar celebrated his triumph. 

But the Celtic love of splendour and of art were mixed with 
much barbarism. Strabo tells us how the warriors rode home 
[41] from victory with the heads of fallen foemen dangling from 

their horses' necks, just as in the Irish saga the Ulster hero, 
Cuchulain, is represented as driving back to Emania from a foray 
into Connacht with the heads of his enemies hanging from his 
chariot-rim. Their domestic arrangements were rude; they lay on 
the ground to sleep, sat on couches of straw, and their women 
worked in the fields. 


A characteristic scene from the battle of Clastidium (222 B.C.) 
is recorded by Polybius. The Gaesati, 23 he tells us, who were 
in the forefront of the Celtic army, stripped naked for the fight, 
and the sight of these warriors, with their great stature and their 
fair skins, on which glittered the collars and bracelets of gold 
so loved as an adornment by all the Celts, filled the Roman 
legionaries with awe. Yet when the day was over those golden 
ornaments went in cartloads to deck the Capitol of Rome; and 
the final comment of Polybius on the character of the Celts is that 
they, "I say not usually, but always, in everything they attempt, 
are driven headlong by their passions, and never submit to the 
laws of reason." As might be expected, the chastity for which 
the Germans were noted was never, until recent times, a Celtic 

23 These were a tribe who took their name from the gcesum, a kind of Celtic 
javelin, which was their principal weapon. The torque, or twisted collar of 
gold, is introduced as a typical ornament in the well-known statue of the dying 
Gaul, commonly called "The Dying Gladiator." Many examples are preserved 
in the National Museum of Dublin. 



Diodorus Siculus, a contemporary of Julius Caesar and 
Augustus, who had travelled in Gaul, confirms in the main 
the accounts of Caesar and Strabo, but adds some interesting [42] 
details. He notes in particular the Gallic love of gold. Even 
cuirasses were made of it. This is also a very notable trait in 
Celtic Ireland, where an astonishing number of prehistoric gold 
relics have been found, while many more, now lost, are known 
to have existed. The temples and sacred places, say Posidonius 
and Diodorus, were full of unguarded offerings of gold, which 
no one ever touched. He mentions the great reverence paid to 
the bards, and, like Cato, notices something peculiar about the 
kind of speech which the educated Gauls cultivated: "they are 
not a talkative people, and are fond of expressing themselves in 
enigmas, so that the hearer has to divine the most part of what 
they would say." This exactly answers to the literary language 
of ancient Ireland, which is curt and allusive to a degree. The 
Druid was regarded as the prescribed intermediary between God 
and man — no one could perform a religious act without his 

Ammianus Marcellinus 

Ammianus Marcellinus, who wrote much later, in the latter 
half of the fourth century A.D., had also visited Gaul, which was 
then, of course, much Romanised. He tells us, however, like 
former writers, of the great stature, fairness, and arrogant bearing 
of the Gallic warrior. He adds that the people, especially in 
Aquitaine, were singularly clean and proper in their persons — no 
one was to be seen in rags. The Gallic woman he describes 
as very tall, blue-eyed, and singularly beautiful; but a certain 
amount of awe is mingled with his evident admiration, for he 
tells us that while it was dangerous enough to get into a fight with 
a Gallic man, your case was indeed desperate if his wife with 
her "huge snowy arms," which could strike like catapults, came 
to his assistance. One is irresistibly reminded of the gallery of [43] 

30 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

vigorous, independent, fiery-hearted women, like Maeve, Grania, 
Findabair, Deirdre, and the historic Boadicea, who figure in the 
myths and in the history of the British Islands. 

Rice Holmes on the Gauls 

The following passage from Dr. Rice Holmes' "Caesar's 
Conquest of Gaul" may be taken as an admirable summary of 
the social physiognomy of that part of Celtica a little before the 
time of the Christian era, and it corresponds closely to all that is 
known of the native Irish civilisation: 

"The Gallic peoples had risen far above the condition of 
savages; and the Celticans of the interior, many of whom had 
already fallen under Roman influence, had attained a certain 
degree of civilisation, and even of luxury. Their trousers, 
from which the province took its name of Gallia Bracata, 
and their many-coloured tartan skirts and cloaks excited the 
astonishment of their conquerors. The chiefs wore rings 
and bracelets and necklaces of gold; and when these tall, fair- 
haired warriors rode forth to battle, with their helmets wrought 
in the shape of some fierce beast's head, and surmounted by 
nodding plumes, their chain armour, their long bucklers and 
their huge clanking swords, they made a splendid show. 
Walled towns or large villages, the strongholds of the various 
tribes, were conspicuous on numerous hills. The plains were 
dotted by scores of oper hamlets. The houses, built of timber 
and wickerwork, were large and well thatched. The fields 
in summer were yellow with corn. Roads ran from town to 
town. Rude bridges spanned the rivers; and barges laden with 
[44] merchandise floated along them. Ships clumsy indeed but 

larger than any that were seen on the Mediterranean, braved 
the storms of the Bay of Biscay and carried cargoes between 
the ports of Brittany and the coast of Britain. Tolls were 
exacted on the goods which were transported on the great 
waterways; and it was from the farming of these dues that the 
nobles derived a large part of their wealth. Every tribe had its 
coinage; and the knowledge of writing in Greek and Roman 


characters was not confined to the priests. The iEduans were 
familiar with the plating of copper and of tin. The miners of 
Aquitaine, of Auvergne, and of the Berri were celebrated for 
their skill. Indeed, in all that belonged to outward prosperity 
the peoples of Gaul had made great strides since their kinsmen 
first came into contact with Rome." 24 

Weakness of the Celtic Policy 

Yet this native Celtic civilisation, in many respects so attractive 
and so promising, had evidently some defect or disability which 
prevented the Celtic peoples from holding their own either against 
the ancient civilisation of the Grseco-Roman world, or against 
the rude young vigour of the Teutonic races. Let us consider 
what this was. [45] 

The Classical State 

At the root of the success of classical nations lay the conception 
of the civic community, the ttoAic, the res publica, as a kind of 
divine entity, the foundation of blessing to men, venerable for its 
age, yet renewed in youth with every generation; a power which 
a man might joyfully serve, knowing that even if not remembered 
in its records his faithful service would outlive his own petty life 
and go to exalt the life of his motherland or city for all future 
time. In this spirit Socrates, when urged to evade his death 
sentence by taking the means of escape from prison which his 

24 "Csesar's Conquest of Gaul," pp. 10, 11. Let it be added that the aristocratic 
Celts were, like the Teutons, dolichocephalic — that is to say, they had heads 
long in proportion to their breadth. This is proved by remains found in the 
basin of the Marne, which was thickly populated by them. In one case the 
skeleton of the tall Gallic warrior was found with his war-car, iron helmet, 
and sword, now in the Music de St.-Germain. The inhabitants of the British 
Islands are uniformly long-headed, the round-headed "Alpine" type occurring 
very rarely. Those of modern France are round-headed. The shape of the head, 
however, is now known to be by no means a constant racial character. It alters 
rapidly in a new environment, as is shown by measurements of the descendants 
of immigrants in America. See an article on this subject by Professor Haddon 
in "Nature," Nov. 3, 1910. 

32 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

friends offered him, rebuked them for inciting him to an impious 
violation of his country's laws. For a man's country, he says, 
is more holy and venerable than father or mother, and he must 
quietly obey the laws, to which he has assented by living under 
them all his life, or incur the just wrath of their great Brethren, 
the Laws of the Underworld, before whom, in the end, he must 
answer for his conduct on earth. In a greater or less degree this 
exalted conception of the State formed the practical religion of 
every man among the classical nations of antiquity, and gave to 
the State its cohesive power, its capability of endurance and of 

Teutonic Loyalty 

With the Teuton the cohesive force was supplied by another 
motive, one which was destined to mingle with the civic motive 
and to form, in union with it — and often in predominance over 
it — the main political factor in the development of the European 
nations. This was the sentiment of what the Germans called 
[46] Treue, the personal fidelity to a chief, which in very early times 

extended itself to a royal dynasty, a sentiment rooted profoundly 
in the Teutonic nature, and one which has never been surpassed 
by any other human impulse as the source of heroic self-sacrifice. 

Celtic Religion 

No human influences are ever found pure and unmixed. The 
sentiment of personal fidelity was not unknown to the classical 
nations. The sentiment of civic patriotism, though of slow growth 
among the Teutonic races, did eventually establish itself there. 
Neither sentiment was unknown to the Celt, but there was another 
force which, in his case, overshadowed and dwarfed them, and 
supplied what it could of the political inspiration and unifying 
power which the classical nations got from patriotism and the 
Teutons from loyalty. This was Religion; or perhaps it would be 
more accurate to say Sacerdotalism — religion codified in dogma 
and administered by a priestly caste. The Druids, as we have 
seen from Caesar, whose observations are entirely confirmed 


by Strabo and by references in Irish legends, 25 were the really 
sovran power in Celtica. All affairs, public and private, were 
subject to their authority, and the penalties which they could 
inflict for any assertion of lay independence, though resting 
for their efficacy, like the mediaeval interdicts of the Catholic 
Church, on popular superstition alone, were enough to quell [47] 
the proudest spirit. Here lay the real weakness of the Celtic 
polity. There is perhaps no law written more conspicuously in 
the teachings of history than that nations who are ruled by priests 
drawing their authority from supernatural sanctions are, just in 
the measure that they are so ruled, incapable of true national 
progress. The free, healthy current of secular life and thought is, 
in the very nature of things, incompatible with priestly rule. Be 
the creed what it may, Druidism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or 
fetichism, a priestly caste claiming authority in temporal affairs 
by virtue of extra-temporal sanctions is inevitably the enemy of 
that spirit of criticism, of that influx of new ideas, of that growth 
of secular thought, of human and rational authority, which are 
the elementary conditions of national development. 

The Cursing of Tara 

A singular and very cogent illustration of this truth can be 
drawn from the history of the early Celtic world. In the sixth 
century A.D., a little over a hundred years after the preaching of 
Christianity by St. Patrick, a king named Dermot MacKerval 26 
ruled in Ireland. He was the Ard Righ, or High King, of that 
country, whose seat of government was at Tara, in Meath, and 
whose office, with its nominal and legal superiority to the five 

25 In the "Tain Bo Cuailgne," for instance, the King of Ulster must not speak 
to a messenger until the Druid, Cathbad, has questioned him. One recalls the 
lines of Sir Samuel Ferguson in his Irish epic poem, "Congal": 

"... For ever since the time When Cathbad smothered Usnach's sons in that 
foul sea of slime Raised by abominable spells at Creeveroe's bloody gate, Do 
ruin and dishonour still on priest-led kings await." 

26 Celtice, Diarmuid mac Cearbhaill. 

34 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

provincial kings, represented the impulse which was moving the 

Irish people towards a true national unity. The first condition 

of such a unity was evidently the establishment of an effective 

central authority. Such an authority, as we have said, the High 

King, in theory, represented. Now it happened that one of his 

officers was murdered in the discharge of his duty by a chief 

[48] named Hugh Guairy. Guairy was the brother of a bishop who 

was related by fosterage to St. Ruadan of Lorrha, and when 

King Dermot sent to arrest the murderer these clergy found 

him a hiding-place. Dermot, however, caused a search to be 

made, haled him forth from under the roof of St. Ruadan, and 

brought him to Tara for trial. Immediately the ecclesiastics of 

Ireland made common cause against the lay ruler who had dared 

to execute justice on a criminal under clerical protection. They 

assembled at Tara, fasted against the king, 27 and laid their solemn 

malediction upon him and the seat of his government. Then the 

chronicler tells us that Dermot's wife had a prophetic dream: 

"Upon Tara's green was a vast and wide-foliaged tree, and 

eleven slaves hewing at it; but every chip that they knocked 

from it would return into its place again and there adhere 

instantly, till at last there came one man that dealt the tree but 

a stroke, and with that single cut laid it low." 28 

The fair tree was the Irish monarchy, the twelve hewers were 

the twelve Saints or Apostles of Ireland, and the one who laid 

it low was St. Ruadan. The plea of the king for his country, 

whose fate he saw to be hanging in the balance, is recorded with 

[49] moving force and insight by the Irish chronicler: 29 

J It was the practice, known in India also, for a person who was wronged 
by a superior, or thought himself so, to sit before the doorstep of the denier 
of justice and fast until right was done him. In Ireland a magical power was 
attributed to the ceremony, the effect of which would be averted by the other 
person fasting as well. 

28 "Silva Gadelica," by S.H. O'Grady, p. 73. 
9 The authority here quoted is a narrative contained in a fifteenth-century 


" 'Alas,' he said, 'for the iniquitous contest that ye have 
waged against me; seeing that it is Ireland's good that I pursue, 
and to preserve her discipline and royal right; but 'tis Ireland's 
unpeace and murderousness that ye endeavour after.' " 

But Ruadan said, "Desolate be Tara for ever and ever"; and 
the popular awe of the ecclesiastical malediction prevailed. The 
criminal was surrendered, Tara was abandoned, and, except for 
a brief space when a strong usurper, Brian Boru, fought his way 
to power, Ireland knew no effective secular government till it 
was imposed upon her by a conqueror. The last words of the 
historical tract from which we quote are Dermot's cry of despair: 
"Woe to him that with the clergy of the churches battle 

This remarkable incident has been described at some length 
because it is typical of a factor whose profound influence in 
moulding the history of the Celtic peoples we can trace through 
a succession of critical events from the time of Julius Caesar to 
the present day. How and whence it arose we shall consider later; 
here it is enough to call attention to it. It is a factor which forbade 
the national development of the Celts, in the sense in which we 
can speak of that of the classical or the Teutonic peoples. 

What Europe Owes to the Celt 

Yet to suppose that on this account the Celt was not a force of 
any real consequence in Europe would be altogether a mistake. 
His contribution to the culture of the Western world was a 
very notable one. For some four centuries — about A.D. 500 to 
900 — Ireland was the refuge of learning and the source of literary [50] 
and philosophic culture for half Europe. The verse-forms of 
Celtic poetry have probably played the main part in determining 
the structure of all modern verse. The myths and legends of the 

vellum manuscript found in Lismore Castle in 1814, and translated by S.H. 
O'Grady in his "Silva Gadelica." The narrative is attributed to an officer of 
Dermot's court. 


36 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Gaelic and Cymric peoples kindled the imagination of a host 
of Continental poets. True, the Celt did not himself create any 
great architectural work of literature, just as he did not create 
a stable or imposing national polity. His thinking and feeling 
were essentially lyrical and concrete. Each object or aspect of 
life impressed him vividly and stirred him profoundly; he was 
sensitive, impressionable to the last degree, but did not see things 
in their larger and more far-reaching relations. He had little gift 
for the establishment or institutions, for the service of principles; 
but he was, and is, an indispensable and never-failing assertor of 
humanity as against the tyranny of principles, the coldness and 
barrenness of institutions. The institutions of royalty and of civic 
patriotism are both very capable of being fossilised into barren 
formulae, and thus of fettering instead of inspiring the soul. But 
the Celt has always been a rebel against anything that has not in it 
the breath of life, against any unspiritual and purely external form 
of domination. It is too true that he has been over-eager to enjoy 
the fine fruits of life without the long and patient preparation for 
the harvest, but he has done and will still do infinite service to the 
modern world in insisting that the true fruit of life is a spiritual 
reality, never without pain and loss to be obscured or forgotten 
amid the vast mechanism of a material civilisation. 


Ireland and the Celtic Religion 


We have said that the Irish among the Celtic peoples possess 
the unique interest of having carried into the light of modern 
historical research many of the features of a native Celtic 
civilisation. There is, however, one thing which they did not carry 
across the gulf which divides us from the ancient world — and 
this was their religion. 

It was not merely that they changed it; they left it behind them 
so entirely that all record of it is lost. St. Patrick, himself a Celt, 
who apostolised Ireland during the fifth century, has left us an 
autobiographical narrative of his mission, a document of intense 
interest, and the earliest extant record of British Christianity; but 
in it he tells us nothing of the doctrines he came to supplant. We 
learn far more of Celtic religious beliefs from Julius Caesar, who 
approached them from quite another side. The copious legendary 
literature which took its present form in Ireland between the 
seventh and the twelfth centuries, though often manifestly going 
back to pre-Christian sources, shows us, beyond a belief in magic 
and a devotion to certain ceremonial or chivalric observances, 
practically nothing resembling a religious or even an ethical 
system. We know that certain chiefs and bards offered a long 
resistance to the new faith, and that this resistance came to the 
arbitrament of battle at Moyrath in the sixth century, but no 
echo of any intellectual controversy, no matching of one doctrine 
against another, such as we find, for instance, in the records of 
the controversy of Celsus with Origen, has reached us from this 
period of change and strife. The literature of ancient Ireland, as 
we shall see, embodied many ancient myths; and traces appear in [52] 
it of beings who must, at one time, have been gods or elemental 
powers; but all has been emptied of religious significance and 
turned to romance and beauty. Yet not only was there, as Caesar 
tells us, a very well-developed religious system among the Gauls, 
but we learn on the same authority that the British Islands were 
the authoritative centre of this system; they were, so to speak, 
the Rome of the Celtic religion. 

38 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

What this religion was like we have now to consider, as an 
introduction to the myths and tales which more or less remotely 
sprang from it. 

The Popular Religion of the Celts 

But first we must point out that the Celtic religion was by no 
means a simple affair, and cannot be summed up as what we 
call "Druidism." Beside the official religion there was a body of 
popular superstitions and observances which came from a deeper 
and older source than Druidism, and was destined long to outlive 
it — indeed, it is far from dead even yet. 

The Megalithic People 

The religions of primitive peoples mostly centre on, or take 
their rise from, rites and practices connected with the burial of 
the dead. The earliest people inhabiting Celtic territory in the 
West of Europe of whom we have any distinct knowledge are 
a race without name or known history, but by their sepulchral 
monuments, of which so many still exist, we can learn a great 
deal about them. They were the so-called Megalithic People, 30 
the builders of dolmens, cromlechs, and chambered tumuli, of 
[53] which more than three thousand have been counted in France 

alone. Dolmens are found from Scandinavia southwards, all 
down the western lands of Europe to the Straits of Gibraltar, 
and round by the Mediterranean coast of Spain. They occur in 
some of the western islands of the Mediterranean, and are found 
in Greece, where, in Mycense, an ancient dolmen yet stands 
beside the magnificent burial-chamber of the Atreidae. Roughly, 
if we draw a line from the mouth of the Rhone northward to 
Varanger Fiord, one may say that, except for a few Mediterranean 
examples, all the dolmens in Europe lie to the west of that line. 
To the east none are found till we come into Asia. But they cross 
the Straits of Gibraltar, and are found all along the North African 
littoral, and thence eastwards through Arabia, India, and as far 

30 From Greek megas, great, and lithos, a stone. 


as Japan. 

Dolmens, Cromlechs, and Tumuli 

Dolmen at Proleek, Ireland 

(After Borlase) 
A dolmen, it may be here explained, is a kind of chamber 
composed of upright unhewn stones, and roofed generally with 
a single huge stone. They are usually wedge-shaped in plan, and 
traces of a porch or vestibule can often be noticed. The primary 
intention of the dolmen was to represent a house or dwelling-place 
for the dead. A cromlech (often confused in popular language 
with the dolmen) is properly a circular arrangement of standing 
stones, often with a dolmen in their midst. It is believed that most 
if not all of the now exposed dolmens were originally covered [54] 
with a great mound of earth or of smaller stones. Sometimes, as 
in the illustration we give from Carnac, in Brittany, great avenues 
or alignments are formed of single upright stones, and these, no 
doubt, had some purpose connected with the ritual of worship 
carried on in the locality. The later megalithic monuments, as 
at Stonehenge, may be of dressed stone, but in all cases their 
rudeness of construction, the absence of any sculpturing (except 
for patterns or symbols incised on the surface), the evident aim 
at creating a powerful impression by the brute strength of huge 
monolithic masses, as well as certain subsidiary features in their 
design which shall be described later on, give these megalithic 
monuments a curious family likeness and mark them out from 
the chambered tombs of the early Greeks, of the Egyptians, and 
of other more advanced races. The dolmens proper gave place 
in the end to great chambered mounds or tumuli, as at New 
Grange, which we also reckon as belonging to the Megalithic 
People. They are a natural development of the dolmen. The 

40 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

early dolmen-builders were in the neolithic stage of culture, their 
weapons were of polished stone. But in the tumuli not only stone, 
but also bronze, and even iron, instruments are found — at first 
evidently importations, but afterwards of local manufacture. 
Origin of the Megalithic People 

Prehistoric Tumulus at New Grange 

Photograph by R. Welch, Belfast 
The language originally spoken by this people can only be 
conjectured by the traces of it left in that of their conquerors, 
the Celts. 31 But a map of the distribution or their monuments 
irresistibly suggests the idea that their builders were of North 
African origin; that they were not at first accustomed to traverse 
[55] the sea for any great distance; that they migrated westwards along 

North Africa, crossed into Europe where the Mediterranean at 
Gibraltar narrows to a strait of a few miles in width, and thence 
spread over the western regions of Europe, including the British 
Islands, while on the eastward they penetrated by Arabia into 
Asia. It must, however, be borne in mind that while originally, 
no doubt, a distinct race, the Megalithic People came in the end 
to represent, not a race, but a culture. The human remains found 
in these sepulchres, with their wide divergence in the shape of 

31 Seep. 78. 


the skull, &c, clearly prove this. 32 These and other relics testify 
to the dolmen-builders in general as representing a superior and 
well-developed type, acquainted with agriculture, pasturage, and 
to some extent with seafaring. The monuments themselves, which 
are often of imposing size and imply much thought and organised 
effort in their construction, show unquestionably the existence, at 
this period, of a priesthood charged with the care of funeral rites 
and capable of controlling large bodies of men. Their dead were, 
as a rule, not burned, but buried whole — the greater monuments 
marking, no doubt, the sepulchres of important personages, while 
the common people were buried in tombs of which no traces now 

The Celts of the Plains 

De Jubainville, in his account of the early history of the 
Celts, takes account of two main groups only — the Celts and the 
Megalithic People. But A. Bertrand, in his very valuable work 
"La Religion des Gaulois," distinguishes two elements among 
the Celts themselves. There are, besides the Megalithic People, 
the two groups of lowland Celts and mountain Celts. The lowland [56] 
Celts, according to his view, started from the Danube and entered 
Gaul probably about 1200 B.C. They were the founders of the 
lake-dwellings in Switzerland, in the Danube valley, and in 
Ireland. They knew the use of metals, and worked in gold, in tin, 
in bronze, and towards the end of their period in iron. Unlike the 
Megalithic People, they spoke a Celtic tongue, 33 though Bertrand 
seems to doubt their genuine racial affinity with the true Celts. 
They were perhaps Celticised rather than actually Celtic. They 
were not warlike; a quiet folk of herdsmen, tillers, and artificers. 

32 See Borlase's "Dolmens of Ireland," pp. 605, 606, for a discussion of this 

33 Professor Ridgeway (see Report of the Brit. Assoc, for 1908) has contended 
that the Megalithic People spoke an Aryan language; otherwise he thinks more 
traces of its influence must have survived in the Celtic which supplanted it. 
The weight of authority, as well as such direct evidence as we possess, seems 
to be against his view. 

42 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

They did not bury, but burned their dead. At a great settlement 
of theirs, Golasecca, in Cisalpine Gaul, 6000 interments were 
found. In each case the body had been burned; there was not a 
single burial without previous burning. 

This people entered Gaul not (according to Bertrand), for the 
most part, as conquerors, but by gradual infiltration, occupying 
vacant spaces wherever they found them along the valleys and 
plains. They came by the passes of the Alps, and their starting- 
point was the country of the Upper Danube, which Herodotus 
says "rises among the Celts." They blended peacefully with 
the Megalithic People among whom they settled, and did not 
evolve any of those advanced political institutions which are 
only nursed in war, but probably they contributed powerfully to 
the development of the Druidical system of religion and to the 
[57] bardic poetry. 

The Celts of the Mountains 

Finally, we have a third group, the true Celtic group, which 
followed closely on the track of the second. It was at the 
beginning of the sixth century that it first made its appearance 
on the left bank of the Rhine. While Bertrand calls the second 
group Celtic, these he styles Galatic, and identifies them with the 
Galatse of the Greeks and the Galli and Belgse of the Romans. 

The second group, as we have said, were Celts of the plains. 
The third were Celts of the mountains. The earliest home in which 
we know them was the ranges of the Balkans and Carpathians. 
Their organisation was that of a military aristocracy — they lorded 
it over the subject populations on whom they lived by tribute 
or pillage. They are the warlike Celts of ancient history — the 
sackers of Rome and Delphi, the mercenary warriors who fought 
for pay and for the love of warfare in the ranks of Carthage and 
afterwards of Rome. Agriculture and industry were despised by 
them, their women tilled the ground, and under their rule the 
common population became reduced almost to servitude; "plebs 
pcene servorum habetur loco," as Caesar tells us. Ireland alone 


escaped in some degree from the oppression of this military 
aristocracy, and from the sharp dividing line which it drew 
between the classes, yet even there a reflexion of the state of 
things in Gaul is found, even there we find free and unfree tribes 
and oppressive and dishonouring exactions on the part of the 
ruling order. 

Yet, if this ruling race had some of the vices of untamed 
strength, they had also many noble and humane qualities. They 
were dauntlessly brave, fantastically chivalrous, keenly sensitive 
to the appeal of poetry, of music, and of speculative thought. 
Posidonius found the bardic institution flourishing among them 
about 100 B.C., and about two hundred years earlier Hecatseus [58] 
of Abdera describes the elaborate musical services held by the 
Celts in a Western island — probably Great Britain — in honour 
of their god Apollo (Lugh). 34 Aryan of the Aryans, they had 
in them the making of a great and progressive nation; but the 
Druidic system — not on the side of its philosophy and science, 
but on that of its ecclesiastico-political organisation — was their 
bane, and their submission to it was their fatal weakness. 

The culture of these mountain Celts differed markedly from 
that of the lowlanders. Their age was the age of iron, not of 
bronze; their dead were not burned (which they considered a 
disgrace), but buried. 

The territories occupied by them in force were Switzerland, 
Burgundy, the Palatinate, and Northern France, parts of Britain 
to the west, and Illyria and Galatia to the east, but smaller groups 
of them must have penetrated far and wide through all Celtic 
territory, and taken up a ruling position wherever they went. 

34 See Holder, "Altceltischer Sprachschatz." sulb voce "Hyperboreoi.' 

44 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

-■■ :■ 

Stone Alignments at Kermaris, Carnac 

Arthur G. Bell 

There were three peoples, said Caesar, inhabiting Gaul when 
his conquest began; "they differ from each other in language, 
in customs, and in laws." These people he named respectively 
the Belgae, the Celtae, and the Aquitani. He locates them 
roughly, the Belgae in the north and east, the Celtse in the middle, 
and the Aquitani in the west and south. The Belgae are the 
Galatse of Bertrand, the Celtse are the Celts, and the Aquitani 
are the Megalithic People. They had, of course, all been more 
or less brought under Celtic influences, and the differences of 
language which Caesar noticed need not have been great; still 
it is noteworthy, and quite in accordance with Bertrand' s views, 
that Strabo speaks of the Aquitani as differing markedly from 
[59] the rest of the inhabitants, and as resembling the Iberians. The 

language of the other Gaulish peoples, he expressly adds, were 
merely dialects of the same tongue. 

The Religion of Magic 

This triple division is reflected more or less in all the Celtic 
countries, and must always be borne in mind when we speak 
of Celtic ideas and Celtic religion, and try to estimate the 
contribution of the Celtic peoples to European culture. The 


mythical literature and the art of the Celt have probably sprung 
mainly from the section represented by the Lowland Celts of 
Bertrand. But this literature of song and saga was produced 
by a bardic class for the pleasure and instruction of a proud, 
chivalrous, and warlike aristocracy, and would thus inevitably be 
moulded by the ideas of this aristocracy. But it would also have 
been coloured by the profound influence of the religious beliefs 
and observances entertained by the Megalithic People — beliefs 
which are only now fading slowly away in the spreading daylight 
of science. These beliefs may be summed up in the one term 
Magic. The nature of this religion of magic must now be briefly 
discussed, for it was a potent element in the formation of the 
body of myths and legends with which we have afterwards to 
deal. And, as Professor Bury remarked in his Inaugural Lecture 
at Cambridge, in 1903: 

"For the purpose of prosecuting that most difficult of 
all inquiries, the ethnical problem, the part played by race in 
the development of peoples and the effects of race-blendings, 
it must be remembered that the Celtic world commands 
one of the chief portals of ingress into that mysterious pre- 
Aryan foreworld, from which it may well be that we modern 
Europeans have inherited far more than we dream." 

The ultimate root of the word Magic is unknown, but 
proximately it is derived from the Magi, or priests of Chaldea 
and Media in pre-Aryan and pre-Semitic times, who were 
the great exponents of this system of thought, so strangely 
mingled of superstition, philosophy, and scientific observation. 
The fundamental conception of magic is that of the spiritual 
vitality of all nature. This spiritual vitality was not, as in 
polytheism, conceived as separated from nature in distinct divine 
personalities. It was implicit and immanent in nature; obscure, 
undefined, invested with all the awfulness of a power whose 
limits and nature are enveloped in impenetrable mystery. In its 
remote origin it was doubtless, as many facts appear to show, 


46 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

associated with the cult of the dead, for death was looked upon as 
the resumption into nature, and as the investment with vague and 
uncontrollable powers, of a spiritual force formerly embodied 
in the concrete, limited, manageable, and therefore less awful 
form of a living human personality. Yet these powers were 
not altogether uncontrollable. The desire for control, as well 
as the suggestion of the means for achieving it, probably arose 
from the first rude practices of the art of healing. Medicine 
of some sort was one of the earliest necessities of man. And 
the power of certain natural substances, mineral or vegetable, 
to produce bodily and mental effects often of a most startling 
character would naturally be taken as signal evidence of what 
we may call the "magical" conception of the universe. 35 The 
first magicians were those who attained a special knowledge 
of healing or poisonous herbs; but "virtue" of some sort being 
[61] attributed to every natural object and phenomenon, a kind of 

magical science, partly the child of true research, partly of poetic 
imagination, partly of priestcraft, would in time spring up, would 
be codified into rites and formulas, attached to special places 
and objects, and represented by symbols. The whole subject has 
been treated by Pliny in a remarkable passage which deserves 
quotation at length: 

Pliny on the Religion of Magic 

"Magic is one of the few things which it is important to 
discuss at some length, were it only because, being the most 
delusive of all the arts, it has everywhere and at all times 
been most powerfully credited. Nor need it surprise us that 
it has obtained so vast an influence, for it has united in itself 
the three arts which have wielded the most powerful sway 
over the spirit of man. Springing in the first instance from 
Medicine — a fact which no one can doubt — and under cover 

35 Thus the Greek pharmakon=medicme, poison, or charm; and I am informed 
that the Central African word for magic or charm is mankwala, which also 
means medicine. 


of a solicitude for our health, it has glided into the mind, 
and taken the form of another medicine, more holy and more 
profound. In the second place, bearing the most seductive and 
flattering promises, it has enlisted the motive of Religion, the 
subject on which, even at this day, mankind is most in the 
dark. To crown all it has had recourse to the art of Astrology; 
and every man is eager to know the future and convinced 
that this knowledge is most certainly to be obtained from the 
heavens. Thus, holding the minds of men enchained in this 
triple bond, it has extended its sway over many nations, and 
the Kings of Kings obey it in the East. 

"In the East, doubtless, it was invented — in Persia and by 
Zoroaster. 36 All the authorities agree in this. But has there [62] 
not been more than one Zoroaster?... I have noticed that in 
ancient times, and indeed almost always, one finds men seeking 
in this science the climax of literary glory — at least Pythagoras, 
Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato crossed the seas, exiles, 
in truth, rather than travellers, to instruct themselves in this. 
Returning to their native land, they vaunted the claims of magic 
and maintained its secret doctrine.... In the Latin nations there 
are early traces of it, as, for instance, in our Laws of the Twelve 
Tables 37 and other monuments, as I have said in a former book. 
In fact, it was not until the year 657 after the foundation of Rome, 
under the consulate of Cornelius Lentulus Crassus, that it was 
forbidden by a senatus consultum to sacrifice human beings; a 
fact which proves that up to this date these horrible sacrifices 
were made. The Gauls have been captivated by it, and that even 
down to our own times, for it was the Emperor Tiberius who 

36 If Pliny meant that it was here first codified and organised he may be 
right, but the conceptions on which magic rest are practically universal, and of 
immemorial antiquity. 

57 Adopted 45 1 B.C. Livy entitles them "the fountain of all public and private 
right." They stood in the Forum till the third century A.D., but have now 
perished, except for fragments preserved in various commentaries. 

48 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

suppressed the Druids and all the herd of prophets and medicine- 
men. But what is the use of launching prohibitions against an art 
which has thus traversed the ocean and penetrated even to the 
confines of Nature?" {Hist. Nat. xxx.) 

Pliny adds that the first person whom he can ascertain to have 
written on this subject was Osthanes, who accompanied Xerxes 
in his war against the Greeks, and who propagated the "germs of 
his monstrous art" wherever he went in Europe. 

Magic was not — so Pliny believed — indigenous either in 

Greece or in Italy, but was so much at home in Britain and 

[63] conducted with such elaborate ritual that Pliny says it would 

almost seem as if it was they who had taught it to the Persians, 

not the Persians to them. 

Traces of Magic in Megalithic Monuments 

The imposing relics of their cult which the Megalithic People 
have left us are full of indications of their religion. Take, 
for instance, the remarkable tumulus of Mane-er-H'oeck, in 
Brittany. This monument was explored in 1864 by M. Rene 
Galles, who describes it as absolutely intact — the surface of 
the earth unbroken, and everything as the builders left it. 38 At 
the entrance to the rectangular chamber was a sculptured slab, 
on which was graven a mysterious sign, perhaps the totem of a 
chief. Immediately on entering the chamber was found a beautiful 
pendant in green jasper about the size of an egg. On the floor 
in the centre of the chamber was a most singular arrangement, 
consisting of a large ring of jadite, slightly oval in shape, with 
a magnificent axe-head, also of jadite, its point resting on the 
ring. The axe was a well-known symbol of power or godhead, 
and is frequently found in rock-carvings of the Bronze Age, as 
well as in Egyptian hieroglyphs, Minoan carvings, &c. At a 
little distance from these there lay two large pendants of jasper, 
then an axe-head in white jade, 39 then another jasper pendant. 

38 See "Revue Archeologique," t. xii., 1865, "Fouilles de Rene Galles." 
59 Jade is not found in the native state in Europe, nor nearer than China. 


All these objects were ranged with evident intention en suite, 
forming a straight line which coincided exactly with one of the 
diagonals of the chamber, running from north-west to south-east. 
In one of the corners of the chamber were found 101 axe-heads 
in jade, jadite, and fibrolite. There were no traces of bones or [64] 
cinders, no funerary urn; the structure was a cenotaph. "Are we 
not here," asks Bertrand, "in presence of some ceremony relating 
to the practices of magic?" 

Chiromancy at Gavr'inis 

In connexion with the great sepulchral monument of Gavr'inis 
a very curious observation was made by M. Albert Maitre, an 
inspector of the Musee des Antiquites Nationales. There were 
found here — as commonly in other megalithic monuments in 
Ireland and Scotland — a number of stones sculptured with a 
singular and characteristic design in waving and concentric lines. 
Now if the curious lines traced upon the human hand at the roots 
and tips of the fingers be examined under a lens, it will be found 
that they bear an exact resemblance to these designs of megalithic 
sculpture. One seems almost like a cast of the other. These lines 
on the human hand are so distinct and peculiar that, as is well 
known, they have been adopted as a method of identification of 
criminals. Can this resemblance be the result of chance? Nothing [65] 
like these peculiar assemblages of sculptured lines has ever been 
found except in connexion with these monuments. Have we not 
here a reference to chiromancy — a magical art much practised 
in ancient and even in modern times? The hand as a symbol 
of power was a well-known magical emblem, and has entered 
largely even into Christian symbolism — note, for instance, the 
great hand sculptured on the under side of one of the arms of the 
Cross of Muiredach at Monasterboice. 

50 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Stones from Brittany sculptured with Footprints, Axes, 
"Finger-markings," &c. 


Holed Stones 

Dolmen at Trie, France 

(After Gailhabaud) 
Another singular and as yet unexplained feature which appears 
in many of these monuments, from Western Europe to India, is 
the presence of a small hole bored through one of the stones 
composing the chamber. Was it an aperture intended for the 
spirit of the dead? or for offerings to them? or the channel 
through which revelations from the spirit-world were supposed 
to come to a priest or magician? or did it partake of all these 
characters? Holed stones, not forming part of a dolmen, are, 
of course, among the commonest relics of the ancient cult, and 
[66] are still venerated and used in practices connected with child- 

bearing, &c. Here we are doubtless to interpret the emblem as a 
symbol of sex. 

Dolmens in the Deccan, India 

(After Meadows-Taylor) 

Besides the heavenly bodies, we find that rivers, trees, 
mountains, and stones were all objects of veneration among this 
primitive people. Stone-worship was particularly common, and 
is not so easily explained as the worship directed toward objects 
possessing movement and vitality. Possibly an explanation of the 
veneration attaching to great and isolated masses of unhewn stone 



may be found in their resemblance to the artificial dolmens and 
cromlechs. 40 No superstition has proved more enduring. In A.D. 
452 we find the Synod of Aries denouncing those who "venerate 
trees and wells and stones," and the denunciation was repeated 
by Charlemagne, and by numerous Synods and Councils down to 
recent times. Yet a drawing, here reproduced, which was lately 
made on the spot by Mr. Arthur Bell 41 shows this very act of 
worship still in full force in Brittany, and shows the symbols and 
the sacerdotal organisation of Christianity actually pressed into 
the service of this immemorial paganism. According to Mr. Bell, 
the clergy take part in these performances with much reluctance, 
but are compelled to do so by the force of local opinion. Holy 
wells, the water of which is supposed to cure diseases, are still 
very common in Ireland, and the cult of the waters of Lourdes 
may, in spite of its adoption by the Church, be mentioned as a 
notable case in point on the Continent. 


Small stones, crystals, and gems were, however, also venerated. The 
celebrated Black Stone of Pergamos was the subject of an embassy from Rome 
to that city in the time of the Second Punic War, the Sibylline Books having 
predicted victory to its possessors. It was brought to Rome with great rejoicings 
in the year 205. It is stated to have been about the size of a man's fist, and 
was probably a meteorite. Compare the myth in Hesiod which relates how 
Kronos devoured a stone in the belief that it was his offspring, Zeus. It was 
then possible to mistake a stone for a god. 
41 Replaced by a photograph in this edition. 


Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 


Stone-worship at Locronan, Brittany 
Cup-and-Ring Markings 

Cup-and-ring Markings from Scotland 

(After Sir J. Simpson) 
Another singular emblem, upon the meaning of which no 
light has yet been thrown, occurs frequently in connexion with 
megalithic monuments. The accompanying illustrations show 
examples of it. Cup-shaped hollows are made in the surface 
of the stone, these are often surrounded with concentric rings, 
and from the cup one or more radial lines are drawn to a point 
outside the circumference of the rings. Occasionally a system 
of cups are joined by these lines, but more frequently they 
end a little way outside the widest of the rings. These strange 
markings are found in Great Britain and Ireland, in Brittany, and 
at various places in India, where they are called mahadeos. 42 I 
have also found a curious example — for such it appears to be — in 
Dupaix' "Monuments of New Spain." It is reproduced in Lord 
Kingsboroughs "Antiquities of Mexico," vol. iv. On the circular 
top of a cylindrical stone, known as the "Triumphal Stone," 
is carved a central cup, with nine concentric circles round it, 
and a duct or channel cut straight from the cup through all the 
circles to the rim. Except that the design here is richly decorated 
and accurately drawn, it closely resembles a typical European 
cup-and-ring marking. That these markings mean something, 
and that, wherever they are found, they mean the same thing, 
can hardly be doubted, but what that meaning is remains yet a 

See Sir J. Simpson's "Archaic Sculpturings" 1867. 


puzzle to antiquarians. The guess may perhaps be hazarded that 
they are diagrams or plans of a megalithic sepulchre. The central 
hollow represents the actual burial-place. The circles are the 
standing stones, fosses, and ramparts which often surrounded it; 
and the line or duct drawn from the centre outwards represents the 
subterranean approach to the sepulchre. The apparent "avenue" 
intention of the duct is clearly brought out in the varieties given 
below, which I take from Simpson. As the sepulchre was also 
a holy place or shrine, the occurrence of a representation of it 
among other carvings of a sacred character is natural enough; 
it would seem symbolically to indicate that the place was holy 
ground. How far this suggestion might apply to the Mexican 
example I am unable to say. 

Varieties of Cup-and-ring Markings 

The Tumulus at New Grange 

One of the most important and richly sculptured of European 
megalithic monuments is the great chambered tumulus of New 
Grange, on the northern bank of the Boyne, in Ireland. This 
tumulus, and the others which occur in its neighbourhood, appear 
in ancient Irish mythical literature in two different characters, the 
union of which is significant. They are regarded on the one hand 
as the dwelling-places of the Sidhe (pronounced Shee), or Fairy 
Folk, who represent, probably, the deities of the ancient Irish, 
and they are also, traditionally, the burial-places of the Celtic 
High Kings of pagan Ireland. The story of the burial of King 
Cormac, who was supposed to have heard of the Christian faith 
long before it was actually preached in Ireland by St. Patrick and 
who ordered that he should not be buried at the royal cemetery 
by the Boyne, on account of its pagan associations, points to the 
view that this place was the centre of a pagan cult involving more 
than merely the interment of royal personages in its precincts. 


54 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Unfortunately these monuments are not intact; they were opened 
and plundered by the Danes in the ninth century, 43 but enough 
evidence remains to show that they were sepulchral in their 
origin, and were also associated with the cult of a primitive 
religion. The most important of them, the tumulus of New 
Grange, has been thoroughly explored and described by Mr. 
George Coffey, keeper of the collection of Celtic antiquities in 
the National Museum, Dublin. 44 It appears from the outside like 
a large mound, or knoll, now overgrown with bushes. It measures 
[70] about 280 feet across, at its greatest diameter, and is about 44 feet 

in height. Outside it there runs a wide circle of standing stones 
originally, it would seem, thirty-five in number. Inside this circle 
is a ditch and rampart, and on top of this rampart was laid a 
circular curb of great stones 8 to 10 feet long, laid on edge, and 
confining what has proved to be a huge mound of loose stones, 
now overgrown, as we have said, with grass and bushes. It is 
in the interior of this mound that the interest of the monument 
lies. Towards the end of the seventeenth century some workmen 
who were getting road-material from the mound came across the 
entrance to a passage which led into the interior, and was marked 
by the fact that the boundary stone below it is richly carved with 
spirals and lozenges. This entrance faces exactly south-east. The 
passage is formed of upright slabs of unhewn stone roofed with 
similar slabs, and varies from nearly 5 feet to 7 feet 10 inches in 
height; it is about 3 feet wide, and runs for 62 feet straight into 
the heart of the mound. Here it ends in a cruciform chamber, 
20 feet high, the roof, a kind of dome, being formed of large 
flat stones, overlapping inwards till they almost meet at the top, 
where a large flat stone covers all. In each of the three recesses of 
the cruciform chamber there stands a large stone basin, or rude 

43 The fact is recorded in the "Annals of the Four Masters" Under the date 
861, and in the "Annals of Ulster" under 862. 

44 See "Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy," vol. xxx. pt. L, 1892, and 
"New Grange," by G. Coffey, 1912. 


sarcophagus, but not traces of any burial now remains. 

Symbolic Carvings at New Grange 

The stones are all raw and undressed, and were selected for 
their purpose from the river-bed and elsewhere close by. On 
their flat surfaces, obtained by splitting slabs from the original 
quarries, are found the carvings which form the unique interest 
of this strange monument. Except for the large stone with spiral 
carvings and one other at the entrance to the mound, the intention [71] 
of these sculptures does not appear to have been decorative, 
except in a very rude and primitive sense. There is no attempt 
to cover a given surface with a system of ornament appropriate 
to its size and shape. The designs are, as it were, scribbled upon 
the walls anyhow and anywhere. 45 Among them everywhere the 
spiral is prominent. The resemblance of some of these carvings 
to the supposed finger-markings of the stones at Gavr'inis is 
very remarkable. Triple and double spiral are also found, as 
well as lozenges and zigzags. A singular carving representing 
what looks like a palm-branch or fern-leaf is found in the west 
recess. The drawing of this object is naturalistic, and it is hard to 
interpret it, as Mr. Coffey is inclined to do, as merely a piece of 
so-called "herring-bone" pattern. 46 A similar palm-leaf design, 
but with the ribs arranged at right angles to the central axis, is 
found in the neighbouring tumulus of Dowth, at Loughcrew, and 
in combination with a solar emblem, the swastika, on a small 
altar in the Pyrenees, figured by Bertrand. 

45 It must be observed, however, that the decoration was, certainly, in some, 
and perhaps in all cases, carried out before the stones were placed in position. 
This is also the case at Gavr'inis. 

46 He has modified this view in his latest work, "New Grange," 1912. 


Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 



Entrance to Tumulus at New Grange 

Photograph by R. Welch, Belfast 
The Ship Symbol at New Grange 

Another remarkable and, as far as Ireland goes, unusual figure 
is found sculptured in the west recess at New Grange. It has 
been interpreted by various critics as a mason's mark, a piece 
of Phoenician writing, a group of numerals, and finally (and no 
doubt correctly) by Mr. George Coffey as a rude representation 
of a ship with men on board and uplifted sail. It is noticeable 
that just above it is a small circle, forming, apparently, part of 
the design. Another example occurs at Dowth. 

Solar Ship (with Sail?) from New Grange, Ireland 

The significance of this marking, as we shall see, is possibly 
very great. It has been discovered that on certain stones in the 
tumulus of Locmariaker, in Brittany, 47 there occur a number of 
very similar figures, one of them showing the circle in much the 
same relative position as at New Grange. The axe, an Egyptian 

"Proc. Royal Irish Acad.," vol. viii. 1863, p. 400, and G. Coffey, op. cit. p. 



hieroglyph for godhead and a well-known magical emblem, is 
also represented on this stone. Again, in a brochure by Dr. 
Oscar Montelius on the rock-sculptures of Sweden 48 we find 
a reproduction (also given in Du Chaillu's "Viking Age") of 
a rude rock-carving showing a number of ships with men on 
board, and the circle quartered by a cross — unmistakably a solar 
emblem — just above one of them. That these ships (which, like 
the Irish example, are often so summarily represented as to be 
mere symbols which no one could identifiy as a ship were the 
clue not given by other and more elaborate representations) were 
drawn so frequently in conjunction with the solar disk merely 
for amusement or for a purely decorative object seems to me 
most improbable. In the days of the megalithic folk a sepulchral [73] 
monument, the very focus of religious ideas, would hardly have 
been covered with idle and meaningless scrawls. "Man," as Sir J. 
Simpson has well said, "has ever conjoined together things sacred 
and things sepulchral." Nor do these scrawls, in the majority of 
instances, show any glimmering of a decorative intention. But if 
they had a symbolic intention, what is it that they symbolise? 


Solar Ship from Loc mariaker, Brittany 
(After Ferguson) 


Solar Ship from Hallande, Sweden 

(After Montelius) 
The Ship Symbol in Egypt 

Now this symbol of the ship, with or without the actual 
portrayal of the solar emblem, is of very ancient and very [74] 

48 "Les Sculptures de Rochers de la Suede," read at the Prehistoric Congress, 
Stockholm, 1874; and see G. Coffey, op. cit. p. 60. 

58 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

common occurrence in the sepulchral art of Egypt. It is connected 
with the worship of Ra, which came in fully 4000 years B.C. 
Its meaning as an Egyptian symbol is well known. The ship 
was called the Boat of the Sun. It was the vessel in which the 
Sun-god performed his journeys; in particular, the journey which 
he made nightly to the shores of the Other-world, bearing with 
him in his bark the souls of the beatified dead. The Sun-god, 
Ra, is sometimes represented by a disk, sometimes by other 
emblems, hovering above the vessel or contained within it. Any 
one who will look over the painted or sculptured sarcophagi in the 
British Museum will find a host of examples. Sometimes he will 
find representations of the life-giving rays of Ra pouring down 
upon the boat and its occupants. Now, in one of the Swedish 
rock-carvings of ships at Backa, Bohuslan, given by Montelius, 
a ship crowded with figures is shown beneath a disk with three 
descending rays, and again another ship with a two-rayed sun 
above it. It may be added that in the tumulus of Dowth, which is 
close to that of New Grange and is entirely of the same character 
and period, rayed figures and quartered circles, obviously solar 
emblems, occur abundantly, as also at Loughcrew and other 
places in Ireland, and one other ship figure has been identified at 

Egyptian Solar Bark, XXII Dynasty 
[75] (British Museum) 

Egyptian Solar Bark, with god Khnemu and attendant deities 

(British Museum) 
In Egypt the solar boat is sometimes represented as containing 
the solar emblem alone, sometimes it contains the figure of a 


god with attendant deities, sometimes it contains a crowd of 
passengers representing human souls, and sometimes the figure 
of a single corpse on a bier. The megalithic carvings also 
sometimes show the solar emblem and sometimes not; the boats 
are sometimes filled with figures and are sometimes empty. 
When a symbol has once been accepted and understood, any 
conventional or summary representation of it is sufficient. I take 
it that the complete form of the megalithic symbol is that of a 
boat with figures in it and with the solar emblem overhead. These 
figures, assuming the foregoing interpretation of the design to 
be correct, must clearly be taken for representations of the dead 
on their way to the Other-world. They cannot be deities, for 
representations of the divine powers under human aspect were 
quite unknown to the Megalithic People, even after the coming of 
the Celts — they first occur in Gaul under Roman influence. But 
if these figures represent the dead, then we have clearly before 
us the origin of the so-called "Celtic" doctrine of immortality. 
The carvings in question are pre-Celtic. They are found where no 
Celts ever penetrated. Yet they point to the existence of just that 
Other-world doctrine which, from the time of Caesar downwards, [76] 
has been associated with Celtic Druidism, and this doctrine was 
distinctively Egyptian. 

Egyptian Bark, with figure of Ra holding an Ankh, enclosed in 
Solar Disk. XIX Dynasty 

{British Museum) 
The "Navetas" 

In connexion with this subject I may draw attention to the 
theory of Mr. W.C. Borlase that the typical design of an Irish 
dolmen was intended to represent a ship. In Minorca there are 
analogous structures, there popularly called navetas (ships), so 
distinct is the resemblance. But, he adds, "long before the caves 

60 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

and navetas of Minorca were known to me I had formed the 
opinion that what I have so frequently spoken of as the 'wedge- 
shape' observable so universally in the ground-plans of dolmens 
was due to an original conception of a ship. From sepulchral 
tumuli in Scandinavia we know actual vessels have on several 
occasions been disinterred. In cemeteries of the Iron Age, in 
the same country, as well as on the more southern Baltic coasts, 
the ship was a recognised form of sepulchral enclosure." 49 If 
Mr. Borlase's view is correct, we have here a very strong 
corroboration of the symbolic intention which I attribute to the 
solar ship-carvings of the Megalithic People. 

The Ship Symbol in Babylonia 

The ship symbol, it may be remarked, can be traced to about 
4000 B.C. in Babylonia, where every deity had his own special 
ship (that of the god Sin was called the Ship of Light), his image 
being carried in procession on a litter formed like a ship. This 
is thought by Jastrow 50 to have originated at a time when the 
sacred cities of Babylonia were situated on the Persian Gulf, and 
[77] when religious processions were often carried out by water. 

The Symbol of the Feet 

Yet there is reason to think that some of these symbols 
were earlier than any known mythology, and were, so to say, 
mythologised differently by different peoples, who got hold of 
them from this now unknown source. A remarkable instance is 
that of the symbol of the Two Feet. In Egypt the Feet of Osiris 
formed one of the portions into which his body was cut up, in 
the well-known myth. They were a symbol of possession or 
of visitation. "I have come upon earth," says the "Book of the 
Dead" (ch. xvii.), "and with my two feet have taken possession, 
I am Tmu." Now this symbol of the feet or footprint is very 
widespread. It is found in India, as the print of the foot of 

49 "Dolmens of Ireland," pp. 701-704. 

50 "The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria.' 


Buddha, 51 it is found sculptured on dolmens in Brittany, 52 and 
it occurs in rock-carvings in Scandinavia. 53 In Ireland it passes 
for the footprints of St. Patrick or St. Columba. Strangest of all, 
it is found unmistakably in Mexico. 54 Tyler, in his "Primitive 
Culture" (ii. p. 197) refers to "the Aztec ceremony at the Second 
Festival of the Sun God, Tezcatlipoca, when they sprinkled maize 
flour before his sanctuary, and his high priest watched till he 
beheld the divine footprints, and then shouted to announce, 'Our 
Great God is come. ' " 

The Two Feet Symbol 

The Ankh on Megalithic Carvings 

There is very strong evidence of the connexion of the 
Megalithic People with North Africa. Thus, as Sergi points [78] 
out, many signs (probably numerical) found on ivory tablets 
in the cemetery at Naqada discovered by Flinders Petrie are 
to be met with on European dolmens. Several later Egyptian 
hieroglyphic signs, including the famous Ankh, or crux ansata, 
the symbol of vitality or resurrection, are also found in megalithic 
carvings. 55 From these correspondences Letourneau drew the 
conclusion "that the builders of our megalithic monuments came 
from the South, and were related to the races of North Africa." 56 


A good example from Amaravati (after Fergusson) is given by Bertrand, 
"Rel. des G.," p. 389. 

52 Sergi, "The Mediterranean Race," p. 313. 

53 At Lokeberget, Bohuslan; see Monteiius, op. cit. 

54 See Lord Kingsborough's "Antiquities of Mexico," passim, and the 
Humboldt fragment of Mexican painting (reproduced in Churchward's "Signs 
and Symbols of Primordial Man"). 

55 See Sergi, op. cit. p. 290, for the Ankh on a French dolmen. 

56 "Bulletin de la Soc. dAnthropologie," Paris, April 1893. 

62 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The Ankh 

Evidence from Language 

Approaching the subject from the linguistic side, Rhys 
and Brynmor Jones find that the African origin — at least 
proximately — of the primitive population of Great Britain and 
Ireland is strongly suggested. It is here shown that the Celtic 
languages preserve in their syntax the Hamitic, and especially 
the Egyptian type. 57 

Egyptian and "Celtic" Ideas of Immortality 

The facts at present known do not, I think, justify us in 
framing any theory as to the actual historical relation of the 
dolmen-builders of Western Europe with the people who created 
the wonderful religion and civilisation of ancient Egypt. But 
when we consider all the lines of evidence that converge in this 
direction it seems clear that there was such a relation. Egypt was 
[79] the classic land of religious symbolism. It gave to Europe the 

most beautiful and most popular of all its religious symbols, that 
of the divine mother and child 58 . 1 believe that it also gave to the 
primitive inhabitants of Western Europe the profound symbol of 
the voyaging spirits guided to the world of the dead by the God 
of Light. 

The religion of Egypt, above that of any people whose ideas we 
know to have been developed in times so ancient, centred on the 
doctrine of a future life. The palatial and stupendous tombs, the 
elaborate ritual, the imposing mythology, the immense exaltation 
of the priestly caste, all these features of Egyptian culture were 
intimately connected with their doctrine of the immortality of the 

"The Welsh People," pp. 616-664, where the subject is fully discussed in 
an appendix by Professor J. Morris Jones. "The pre-Aryan idioms which still 
live in Welsh and Irish were derived from a language allied to Egyptian and 
the Berber tongues." 
58 Flinders Petrie, "Egypt and Israel," pp. 137, 899. 


To the Egyptian the disembodied soul was no shadowy 
simulacrum, as the classical nations believed — the future life 
was a mere prolongation of the present; the just man, when he 
had won his place in it, found himself among his relatives, his 
friends, his workpeople, with tasks and enjoyments very much 
like those of earth. The doom of the wicked was annihilation; he 
fell a victim to the invisible monster called the Eater of the Dead. 

Now when the classical nations first began to take an interest 
in the ideas of the Celts the thing that principally struck them 
was the Celtic belief in immortality, which the Gauls said was 
"handed down by the Druids." The classical nations believed in 
immortality; but what a picture does Homer, the Bible of the 
Greeks, give of the lost, degraded, dehumanised creatures which 
represented the departed souls of men! Take, as one example, 
the description of the spirits of the suitors slain by Odysseus as 
Hermes conducts them to the Underworld: [80] 

"Now were summoned the souls of the dead by Cyllenian 

Touched by the wand they awoke, and obeyed him and followed 

him, squealing, 
Even as bats in the dark, mysterious depths of a cavern 
Squeal as they flutter around, should one from the cluster be 

Where from the rock suspended they hung, all clinging together; 
So did the souls flock squealing behind him, as Hermes the 

Guided them down to the gloom through dank and mouldering 

pathways." 59 

59 I quote from Mr. H.B. Cotterill's beautiful hexameter version. 

64 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The classical writers felt rightly that the Celtic idea of 
immortality was something altogether different from this. It 
was both loftier and more realistic; it implied a true persistence 
of the living man, as he was at present, in all his human relations. 
They noted with surprise that the Celt would lend money on a 
promissory note for repayment in the next world. 60 That is an 
absolutely Egyptian conception. And this very analogy occurred 
to Diodorus in writing of the Celtic idea of immortality — it was 
like nothing that he knew of out of Egypt. 61 

The Doctrine of Transmigration 

Many ancient writers assert that the Celtic idea of immortality 
embodied the Oriental conception of the transmigration of souls, 
and to account for this the hypothesis was invented that they 
had learned the doctrine from Pythagoras, who represented it in 
classical antiquity. Thus Caesar: "The principal point of their 
[the Druids'] teaching is that the soul does not perish, and that 
after death it passes from one body into another." And Diodorus: 
"Among them the doctrine of Pythagoras prevails, according to 
which the souls of men are immortal, and after a fixed term 
[81] recommence to live, taking upon themselves a new body." Now 

traces of this doctrine certainly do appear in Irish legend. Thus 
the Irish chieftain, Mongan, who is an historical personage, 
and whose death is recorded about A.D. 625, is said to have 
made a wager as to the place of death of a king named Fothad, 
slain in a battle with the mythical hero Finn mac Cumhal in 
the third century. He proves his case by summoning to his aid 
a revenant from the Other-world, Keelta, who was the actual 
slayer of Fothad, and who describes correctly where the tomb is 
to be found and what were its contents. He begins his tale by 
saying to Mongan, "We were with thee," and then, turning to 
the assembly, he continues: "We were with Finn, coming from 

60 Valerius Maximus (about A.D 30) and other classical writers mention this 


Alba...." "Hush," says Mongan, "it is wrong of thee to reveal a 
secret." The secret is, of course, that Mongan was a reincarnation 
of Finn. 62 But the evidence on the whole shows that the Celts 
did not hold this doctrine at all in the same way as Pythagoras 
and the Orientals did. Transmigration was not, with them, part of 
the order of things. It might happen, but in general it did not; the 
new body assumed by the dead clothed them in another, not in 
this world, and so far as we can learn from any ancient authority, 
there does not appear to have been any idea of moral retribution 
connected with this form of the future life. It was not so much 
an article of faith as an idea which haunted the imagination, and 
which, as Mongan's caution indicates, ought not to be brought 
into clear light. 

However it may have been conceived, it is certain that the 
belief in immortality was the basis of Celtic Druidism. 63 Caesar 
affirms this distinctly, and declares the doctrine to have been [82] 
fostered by the Druids rather for the promotion of courage than 
for purely religious reasons. An intense Other-world faith, such 
as that held by the Celts, is certainly one of the mightiest of 
agencies in the hands of a priesthood who hold the keys of that 
world. Now Druidism existed in the British Islands, in Gaul, 
and, in fact, so far as we know, wherever there was a Celtic 
race amid a population of dolmen-builders. There were Celts 
in Cisalpine Gaul, but there were no dolmens there, and there 
were no Druids. 64 What is quite clear is that when the Celts got 

62 De Jubainville, "Irish Mythological Cycle," p. 191 sqq. 

63 The etymology of the word "Druid" is no longer an unsolved problem. It 
had been suggested that the latter part of the word might be connected with 
the Aryan root VID, which appears in "wisdom," in the Latin videre, &c, 
Thurneysen has now shown that this root in combination with the intensive 
particle dru would yield the word dru-vids, represented in Gaelic by draoi, a 
Druid, just as another intensive, su, with vids yields the Gaelic saoi, a sage. 

64 See Rice Holmes, "Caesar's Conquest," p. 15, and pp. 532-536. Rhys, 
it may be observed, believes that Druidism was the religion of the aboriginal 
inhabitants of Western Europe "from the Baltic to Gibraltar" ("Celtic Britain," 

66 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

to Western Europe they found there a people with a powerful 
priesthood, a ritual, and imposing religious monuments; a people 
steeped in magic and mysticism and the cult of the Underworld. 
The inferences, as I read the facts, seem to be that Druidism 
in its essential features was imposed upon the imaginative and 
sensitive nature of the Celt — the Celt with his "extraordinary 
aptitude" for picking up ideas — by the earlier population of 
Western Europe, the Megalithic People, while, as held by these, 
it stands in some historical relation, which I am not able to 
pursue in further detail, with the religious culture of ancient 
Egypt. Much obscurity still broods over the question, and 
[83] perhaps will always do so, but if these suggestions have anything 

in them, then the Megalithic People have been brought a step 
or two out of the atmosphere of uncanny mystery which has 
surrounded them, and they are shown to have played a very 
important part in the religious development of Western Europe, 
and in preparing that part of the world for the rapid extension of 
the special type of Christianity which took place in it. Bertrand, 
in his most interesting chapter on "L'Irlande Celtique," 65 points 
out that very soon after the conversion of Ireland to Christianity, 
we find the country covered with monasteries, whose complete 
organisation seems to indicate that they were really Druidic 
colleges transformed en masse. Caesar has told us what these 
colleges were like in Gaul. They were very numerous. In 
spite of the severe study and discipline involved, crowds flocked 
into them for the sake of the power wielded by the Druidic 
order, and the civil immunities which its members of all grades 
enjoyed. Arts and sciences were studied there, and thousands of 
verses enshrining the teachings of Druidism were committed to 
memory. All this is very like what we know of Irish Druidism. 

p. 73). But we only know of it where Celts and dolmen-builders combined. 
Caesar remarks of the Germans that they had no Druids and cared little about 
sacrificial ceremonies. 
65 "Rel. des Gaulois," lecon xx. 


Such an organisation would pass into Christianity of the type 
established in Ireland with very little difficulty. The belief 
in magical rites would survive — early Irish Christianity, as its 
copious hagiography plainly shows, was as steeped in magical 
ideas as ever was Druidic paganism. The belief in immortality 
would remain, as before, the cardinal doctrine of religion. Above 
all the supremacy of the sacerdotal order over the temporal 
power would remain unimpaired; it would still be true, as Dion 
Chrysostom said of the Druids, that "it is they who command, 
and kings on thrones of gold, dwelling in splendid palaces, are [84] 
but their ministers, and the servants of their thought." 66 

Caesar on the Druidic Culture 

The religious, philosophic, and scientific culture 
superintended by the Druids is spoken of by Caesar with much 
respect. "They discuss and impart to the youth," he writes, "many 
things respecting the stars and their motions, respecting the extent 
of the universe and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, 
respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods" (bk. 
vi. 14). We would give much to know some particulars of the 
teaching here described. But the Druids, though well acquainted 
with letters, strictly forbade the committal of their doctrines to 
writing; an extremely sagacious provision, for not only did they 
thus surround their teaching with that atmosphere of mystery 
which exercises so potent a spell over the human mind, but they 
ensured that it could never be effectively controverted. 

Human Sacrifices in Gaul 

In strange discord, however, with the lofty words of Caesar 
stands the abominable practice of human sacrifice whose 
prevalence he noted among the Celts. Prisoners and criminals, 
or if these failed even innocent victims, probably children, were 
encased, numbers at a time, in huge frames of wickerwork, and 
there burned alive to win the favour of the gods. The practice of 

66 Quoted by Bertrand, op. cit. p. 279. 

68 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

human sacrifice is, of course, not specially Druidic — it is found 
in all parts both of the Old and of the New World at a certain 
stage of culture, and was doubtless a survival from the time of 
the Megalithic People. The fact that it should have continued 
[85] in Celtic lands after an otherwise fairly high state of civilisation 

and religious culture had been attained can be paralleled from 
Mexico and Carthage, and in both cases is due, no doubt, to the 
uncontrolled dominance of a priestly caste. 

Human Sacrifices in Ireland 

Bertrand endeavours to dissociate the Druids from these 
practices, of which he says strangely there is "no trace" in 
Ireland, although there, as elsewhere in Celtica, Druidism was 
all-powerful. There is little doubt, however, that in Ireland 
also human sacrifices at one time prevailed. In a very ancient 
tract, the "Dinnsenchus," preserved in the "Book of Leinster," 
it is stated that on Moyslaught, "the Plain of Adoration," there 
stood a great gold idol, Crom Cruach (the Bloody Crescent). 
To it the Gaels used to sacrifice children when praying for fair 
weather and fertility — "it was milk and corn they asked from it 
in exchange for their children — how great was their horror and 
their moaning!" 67 

And in Egypt 

In Egypt, where the national character was markedly easy- 
going, pleasure-loving, and little capable of fanatical exaltation, 
we find no record of any such cruel rites in the monumental 
inscriptions and paintings, copious as is the information which 
they give us on all features of the national life and religion. 68 
[86] Manetho, indeed, the Egyptian historian who wrote in the third 

67 "The Irish Mythological Cycle," by d'Arbois de Jubainville, p. 61. The 
"Dinnsenchus" in question is an early Christian document. No trace of a being 
like Crom Cruach has been found as yet in the pagan literature of Ireland, nor 
in the writings of St. Patrick, and I think it is quite probable that even in the 
time of St. Patrick human sacrifices had become only a memory. 

68 A representation of human sacrifice has, however, lately been discovered 
in a Temple of the Sun in the ancient Ethiopian capital, Meroe. 


century B.C., tells us that human sacrifices were abolished by 
Amasis I. so late as the beginning of the XVIII Dynasty — about 
1600 B.C. But the complete silence of the other records shows 
us that even if we are to believe Manetho, the practice must in 
historic times have been very rare, and must have been looked 
on with repugnance. 

The Names of Celtic Deities 

What were the names and the attributes of the Celtic deities? 
Here we are very much in the dark. The Megalithic People 
did not imagine their deities under concrete personal form. 
Stones, rivers, wells, trees, and other natural objects were to 
them the adequate symbols, or were half symbols, half actual 
embodiments, of the supernatural forces which they venerated. 
But the imaginative mind of the Aryan Celt was not content 
with this. The existence of personal gods with distinct titles and 
attributes is reported to us by Caesar, who equates them with 
various figures in the Roman pantheon — Mercury, Apollo, Mars, 
and so forth. Lucan mentions a triad of deities, ^Esus, Teutates, 
and Taranus 69 ; and it is noteworthy that in these names we seem 
to be in presence of a true Celtic, i.e., Aryan, tradition. Thus 
iEsus is derived by Belloguet from the Aryan root as, meaning 
"to be", which furnished the name of Asura-masda (/ 'Esprit Sage) 
to the Persians, iEsun to the Umbrians, Asa (Divine Being) to 
the Scandinavians. Teutates comes from a Celtic root meaning 
"valiant", "warlike", and indicates a deity equivalent to Mars. [87] 
Taranus (? Thor), according to de Jubainville, is a god of the 
Lightning (taran in Welsh, Cornish, and Breton is the word 
for "thunderbolt"). Votive inscriptions to these gods have been 
found in Gaul and Britain. Other inscriptions and sculptures bear 

69 "You [Celts] who by cruel blood outpoured think to appease the pitiless 
Teutates, the horrid JEsus with his barbarous altars, and Taranus whose worship 
is no gentler than that of the Scythian Diana", to whom captive were offered up. 
(Lucan, "Pharsalia", i. 444.) An altar dedicated to /Esus has been discovered 
in Paris. 

70 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

testimony to the existence in Gaul of a host of minor and local 
deities who are mostly mere names, or not even names, to us now. 
In the form in which we have them these conceptions bear clear 
traces of Roman influence. The sculptures are rude copies of the 
Roman style of religious art. But we meet among them figures 
of much wilder and stranger aspect — gods with triple faces, gods 
with branching antlers on their brows, ram-headed serpents, and 
other now unintelligible symbols of the older faith. Very notable 
is the frequent occurrence of the cross-legged "Buddha" attitude 
so prevalent in the religious art of the East and of Mexico, and 
also the tendency, so well known in Egypt, to group the gods in 

Caesar on the Celtic Deities 

Caesar, who tries to fit the Gallic religion into the framework 
of Roman mythology — which was exactly what the Gauls 
themselves did after the conquest — says they held Mercury to be 
the chief of the gods, and looked upon him as the inventor of all 
the arts, as the presiding deity of commerce, and as the guardian 
of roads and guide of travellers. One may conjecture that he was 
particularly, to the Gauls as to the Romans, the guide of the dead, 
of travellers to the Other- world, Many bronze statues to Mercury, 
of Gaulish origin, still remain, the name being adopted by the 
Gauls, as many place-names still testify 70 . Apollo was regarded 
[88] as the deity of medicine and healing, Minerva was the initiator 

of arts and crafts, Jupiter governed the sky, and Mars presided 
over war. Caesar is here, no doubt, classifying under five types 
and by Roman names a large number of Gallic divinities. 

The God of the Underworld 

According to Caesar, a most notable deity of the Gauls was (in 
Roman nomenclature) Dis, or Pluto, the god of the Underworld 
inhabited by the dead. From him all the Gauls claimed to be 
descended, and on this account, says Caesar, they began their 

70 Mont Mercure, Mercceur, Mercoirey, Montmartre (Moris Mercurii), &c. 


reckoning of the twenty-four hours of the day with the oncoming 
of night. 71 The name of this deity is not given. D'Arbois de 
Jubainville considers that, together with ^Esus, Teutates, Taranus, 
and, in Irish mythology, Balor and the Fomorians, he represents 
the powers of darkness, death, and evil, and Celtic mythology 
is thus interpreted as a variant of the universal solar myth, 
embodying the conception of the eternal conflict between Day 
and Night. 

The God of Light 

The God of Light appears in Gaul and in Ireland as Lugh, 
or Lugus, who has left his traces in many place-names such as 
Lug-dunum (Leyden), Lyons, &c. Lugh appears in Irish legend 
with distinctly solar attributes. When he meets his army before 
the great conflict with the Fomorians, they feel, says the saga, as 
if they beheld the rising of the sun. Yet he is also, as we shall see, 
a god of the Underworld, belonging on the side of his mother 
Ethlinn, daughter of Balor, to the Powers of Darkness. [89] 

The Celtic Conception of Death 

The fact is that the Celtic conception of the realm of death 
differed altogether from that of the Greeks and Romans, and, as 
I have already pointed out, resembled that of Egyptian religion. 
The Other-world was not a place of gloom and suffering, but of 
light and liberation. The Sun was as much the god of that world 
as he was or this. Evil, pain, and gloom there were, no doubt, and 
no doubt these principles were embodied by the Irish Celts in 
their myths of Balor and the Fomorians, of which we shall hear 
anon; but that they were particularly associated with the idea 
of death is, I think, a false supposition founded on misleading 
analogies drawn from the ideas of the classical nations. Here 
the Celts followed North African or Asiatic conceptions rather 
than those of the Aryans of Europe. It is only by realising that 

71 To this day in many parts of France the peasantry use terms like annuit, 
o'ne, anneue, &c, all meaning "to-night," for aujourd'hui (Bertrand, "Rel. des 
G.," p. 356). 

72 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the Celts as we know them in history, from the break-up of the 
Mid-European Celtic empire onwards, formed a singular blend 
of Aryan with non- Aryan characteristics, that we shall arrive at a 
true understanding of their contribution to European history and 
their influence in European culture. 

The Five Factors in Ancient Celtic Culture 
To sum up the conclusions indicated: we can, I think, 
distinguish five distinct factors in the religious and intellectual 
culture of Celtic lands as we find them prior to the influx of 
classical or of Christian influences. First, we have before us 
a mass of popular superstitions and of magical observances, 
including human sacrifice. These varied more or less from place 
to place, centring as they did largely on local features which were 
regarded as embodiments or vehicles of divine or of diabolic 
[90] power. Secondly, there was certainly in existence a thoughtful 

and philosophic creed, having as its central object of worship 
the Sun, as an emblem of divine power and constancy, and as 
its central doctrine the immortality of the soul. Thirdly, there 
was a worship of personified deities, ^Esus, Teutates, Lugh, and 
others, conceived as representing natural forces, or as guardians 
of social laws. Fourthly, the Romans were deeply impressed with 
the existence among the Druids of a body of teaching of a quasi- 
scientific nature about natural phenomena and the constitution 
of the universe, of the details of which we unfortunately know 
practically nothing. Lastly, we have to note the prevalence of a 
sacerdotal organisation, which administered the whole system of 
religious and of secular learning and literature, 72 which carefully 
confined this learning to a privileged caste, and which, by 
virtue of its intellectual supremacy and of the atmosphere of 
religious awe with which it was surrounded, became the sovran 
power, social, political, and religious, in every Celtic country. I 
have spoken of these elements as distinct, and we can, indeed, 

72 The/;//, or professional poets, it must be remembered, were a branch of the 
Druidic order. 


distinguish them in thought, but in practice they were inextricably 
intertwined, and the Druidic organisation pervaded and ordered 
all. Can we now, it may be asked, distinguish among them 
what is of Celtic and what of pre-Celtic and probably non- Aryan 
origin? This is a more difficult task; yet, looking at all the 
analogies and probabilities, I think we shall not be far wrong 
in assigning to the Megalithic People the special doctrines, the 
ritual, and the sacerdotal organisation of Druidism, and to the 
Celtic element the personified deities, with the zest for learning 
and for speculation; while the popular superstitions were merely 
the local form assumed by conceptions as widespread as the 
human race. [91] 

The Celts of To-day 

In view of the undeniably mixed character of the populations 
called "Celtic" at the present day, it is often urged that this 
designation has no real relation to any ethnological fact. The 
Celts who fought with Caesar in Gaul and with the English in 
Ireland are, it is said, no more — they have perished on a thousand 
battlefields from Alesia to the Boyne, and an older racial stratum 
has come to the surface in their place. The true Celts, according 
to this view, are only to be found in the tall, ruddy Highlanders 
of Perthshire and North-west Scotland, and in a few families of 
the old ruling race still surviving in Ireland and in Wales. In 
all this I think it must be admitted that there is a large measure 
of truth. Yet it must not be forgotten that the descendants of 
the Megalithic People at the present day are, on the physical 
side, deeply impregnated with Celtic blood, and on the spiritual 
with Celtic traditions and ideals. Nor, again, in discussing these 
questions of race-character and its origin, must it ever be assumed 
that the character of a people can be analysed as one analyses a 
chemical compound, fixing once for all its constituent parts and 
determining its future behaviour and destiny. Race-character, 
potent and enduring though it be, is not a dead thing, cast in an 
iron mould, and thereafter incapable of change and growth. It is 

74 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

part of the living forces of the world; it is plastic and vital; it has 
hidden potencies which a variety of causes, such as a felicitous 
cross with a different, but not too different, stock, or — in another 
sphere — the adoption of a new religious or social ideal, may at 
any time unlock and bring into action. 

Of one thing I personally feel convinced — that the problem 
of the ethical, social, and intellectual development of the people 
[92] constituting what is called the "Celtic Fringe" in Europe ought to 

be worked for on Celtic lines; by the maintenance of the Celtic 
tradition, Celtic literature, Celtic speech — the encouragement, in 
short, of all those Celtic affinities of which this mixed race is 
now the sole conscious inheritor and guardian. To these it will 
respond, by these it can be deeply moved; nor has the harvest ever 
failed those who with courage and faith have driven their plough 
into this rich field. On the other hand, if this work is to be done 
with success it must be done in no pedantic, narrow, intolerant 
spirit; there must be no clinging to the outward forms of the past 
simply because the Celtic spirit once found utterance in them. Let 
it be remembered that in the early Middle Ages Celts from Ireland 
were the most notable explorers, the most notable pioneers of 
religion, science, and speculative thought in Europe. 73 Modern 
investigators have traced their footprints of light over half the 
heathen continent, and the schools of Ireland were thronged with 
foreign pupils who could get learning nowhere else. The Celtic 
spirit was then playing its true part in the world-drama, and a 
greater it has never played. The legacy of these men should be 
cherished indeed, but not as a museum curiosity; nothing could 
be more opposed to their free, bold, adventurous spirit than to let 
that legacy petrify in the hands of those who claim the heirship 

73 For instance, Pelagius in the fifth century; Columba, Columbanus, and 
St. Gall in the sixth; Fridolin, named Viator, "the Traveller," and Fursa in 
the seventh; Virgilius (Feargal) of Salzburg, who had to answer at Rome for 
teaching the sphericity of the earth, in the eighth; Dicuil, "the Geographer," 
and Johannes Scotus Erigena — the master mind of his epoch — in the ninth. 


or their name and fame. 
The Mythical Literature 

After the sketch contained in this and the foregoing chapter 
of the early history of the Celts, and of the forces which have [93] 
moulded it, we shall now turn to give an account of the mythical 
and legendary literature in which their spirit most truly lives and 
shines. We shall not here concern ourselves with any literature 
which is not Celtic. With all that other peoples have made — as in 
the Arthurian legends — of myths and tales originally Celtic, we 
have here nothing to do. No one can now tell how much is Celtic 
in them and how much is not. And in matters of this kind it is 
generally the final recasting that is of real importance and value. 
Whatever we give, then, we give without addition or reshaping. 
Stories, of course, have often to be summarised, but there shall 
be nothing in them that did not come direct from the Celtic mind, 
and that does not exist to-day in some variety, Gaelic or Cymric, 
of the Celtic tongue. 



The Celtic Cosmogony 

Among those secret doctrines about the "nature of things" 
which, as Caesar tells us, the Druids never would commit to 
writing, was there anything in the nature of a cosmogony, any 
account of the origin of the world and of man? There surely was. 
It would be strange indeed if, alone among the races of the world, 

76 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the Celts had no world-myth. The spectacle of the universe with 
all its vast and mysterious phenomena in heaven and on earth 
has aroused, first the imagination, afterwards the speculative 
reason, in every people which is capable of either. The Celts 
had both in abundance, yet, except for that one phrase about the 
"indestructibility" of the world handed down to us by Strabo, we 
know nothing of their early imaginings or their reasonings on 
this subject. Ireland possesses a copious legendary literature. All 
of this, no doubt, assumed its present form in Christian times; 
yet so much essential paganism has been allowed to remain in 
it that it would be strange if Christian influences had led to the 
excision of everything in these ancient texts that pointed to a non- 
Christian conception of the origin of things — if Christian editors 
and transmitters had never given us even the least glimmer of the 
existence of such a conception. Yet the fact is that they do not 
give it; there is nothing in the most ancient legendary literature of 
the Irish Gaels, which is the oldest Celtic literature in existence, 
corresponding to the Babylonian conquest of Chaos, or the wild 
Norse myth of the making of Midgard out of the corpse of Ymir, 
or the Egyptian creation of the universe out of the primeval Water 
by Thoth, the Word of God, or even to the primitive folklore 
[95] conceptions found in almost every savage tribe. That the Druids 

had some doctrine on this subject it is impossible to doubt. But, 
by resolutely confining it to the initiated and forbidding all lay 
speculation on the subject, they seem to have completely stifled 
the mythmaking instinct in regard to questions of cosmogony 
among the people at large, and ensured that when their own order 
perished, their teaching, whatever it was, should die with them. 

In the early Irish accounts, therefore, of the beginnings of 
things, we find that it is not with the World that the narrators 
make their start — it is simply with their own country, with 
Ireland. It was the practice, indeed, to prefix to these narratives 
of early invasions and colonisations the Scriptural account of the 
making of the world and man, and this shows that something of 


the kind was felt to be required; but what took the place of the 
Biblical narrative in pre-Christian days we do not know, and, 
unfortunately, are now never likely to know. 

The Cycles of Irish Legend 

Irish mythical and legendary literature, as we have it in the 
most ancient form, may be said to fall into four main divisions, 
and to these we shall adhere in our presentation of it in this 
volume. They are, in chronological order, the Mythological 
Cycle, or Cycle of the Invasions, the Ultonian or Conorian Cycle, 
the Ossianic or Fenian Cycle, and a multitude of miscellaneous 
tales and legends which it is hard to fit into any historical 

The Mythological Cycle 

The Mythological Cycle comprises the following sections: [96] 

1 . The coming of Partholan into Ireland. 

2. The coming of Nemed into Ireland. 

3. The coming of the Firbolgs into Ireland. 

4. The invasion of the Tuatha De Danann, or People of the god 


5. The invasion of the Milesians (Sons of Miled) from Spain, 

and their conquest of the People of Dana. 

With the Milesians we begin to come into something 
resembling history — they represent, in Irish legend, the Celtic 
race; and from them the ruling families of Ireland are supposed 
to be descended. The People of Dana are evidently gods. The 
pre-Danaan settlers or invaders are huge phantom-like figures, 
which loom vaguely through the mists of tradition, and have little 
definite characterisation. The accounts which are given of them 
are many and conflicting, and out of these we can only give here 
the more ancient narratives. 

The Coming of Partholan 

The Celts, as we have learned from Caesar, believed 
themselves to be descended from the God of the Underworld, 

78 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the God of the Dead. Partholan is said to have come into Ireland 
from the West, where beyond the vast, unsailed Atlantic Ocean 
the Irish Fairyland, the Land of the Living — i.e., the land of 
the Happy Dead — was placed. His father's name was Sera (? 
the West). He came with his queen Dalny 74 and a number of 
companions of both sexes. Ireland — and this is an imaginative 
touch intended to suggest extreme antiquity — was then a different 
country, physically, from what it is now. There were then but 
three lakes in Ireland, nine rivers, and only one plain. Others 
[97] were added gradually during the reign of the Partholanians. One, 

Lake Rury, was said to have burst out as a grave was being dug 
for Rury, son of Partholan. 

The Fomorians 

The Partholanians, it is said, had to do battle with a strange 
race, called the Fomorians, of whom we shall hear much in later 
sections of this book. They were a huge, misshapen, violent 
and cruel people, representing, we may believe, the powers of 
evil. One of these was surnamed Cenchos, which means The 
Footless, and thus appears to be related to Vitra, the God of 
Evil in Vedantic mythology, who had neither feet nor hands. 
With a host of these demons Partholan fought for the lordship of 
Ireland, and drove them out to the northern seas, whence they 
occasionally harried the country under its later rulers. 

The end of the race of Partholan was that they were afflicted 
by pestilence, and having gathered together on the Old Plain 
(Senmag) for convenience of burying their dead, they all perished 
there; and Ireland once more lay empty for reoccupation. 

The Legend of Tuan mac Carell 

Who, then, told the tale? This brings us to the mention of 
a very curious and interesting legend — one of the numerous 
legendary narratives in which these tales of the Mythical Period 
have come down to us. It is found in the so-called "Book of the 

74 Dealgnaid. I have been obliged here, as occasionally elsewhere, to modify 
the Irish names so as to make them pronounceable by English readers. 


Dun Cow," a manuscript of about the year A.D. 1100, and is 
entitled "The Legend of Tuan mac Carell." 

St. Finnen, an Irish abbot of the sixth century, is said to have 
gone to seek hospitality from a chief named Tuan mac Carell, 
who dwelt not far from Finnen's monastery at Moville, Co. 
Donegal. Tuan refused him admittance. The saint sat down on [98] 
the doorstep of the chief and fasted for a whole Sunday, 75 upon 
which the surly pagan warrior opened the door to him. Good 
relations were established between them, and the saint returned 
to his monks. 

"Tuan is an excellent man," said he to them; "he will come to 
you and comfort you, and tell you the old stories of Ireland." 7 

This humane interest in the old myths and legends of the 
country is, it may here be observed, a feature as constant as it is 
pleasant in the literature of early Irish Christianity. 

Tuan came shortly afterwards to return the visit of the saint, 
and invited him and his disciples to his fortress. They asked him 
of his name and lineage, and he gave an astounding reply. "I am 
a man of Ulster," he said. "My name is Tuan son of Carell. But 
once I was called Tuan son of Starn, son of Sera, and my father, 
Starn, was the brother of Partholan." 

"Tell us the history of Ireland," then said Finnen, and Tuan 
began. Partholan, he said, was the first of men to settle in Ireland. 
After the great pestilence already narrated he alone survived, "for 
there is never a slaughter that one man does not come out of it to 
tell the tale." Tuan was alone in the land, and he wandered about 
from one vacant fortress to another, from rock to rock, seeking 
shelter from the wolves. For twenty-two years he lived thus 
alone, dwelling in waste places, till at last he fell into extreme 
decrepitude and old age. 

75 Seep. 48, note 1. 

7 I follow in this narrative R.I. Best's translation of the "Irish Mythological 
Cycle" of d'Arbois de Jubainville. 

80 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"Then Nemed son of Agnoman took possession of Ireland. 
[99] He [Agnoman] was my father's brother. I saw him from the 

cliffs, and kept avoiding him. I was long-haired, clawed, 
decrepit, grey, naked, wretched, miserable. Then one evening 
I fell asleep, and when I woke again on the morrow I was 
changed into a stag. I was young again and glad of heart. 
Then I sang of the coming of Nemed and of his race, and of 
my own transformation.... T have put on a new form, a skin 
rough and grey. Victory and joy are easy to me; a little while 
ago I was weak and defenceless.' " 

Tuan is then king of all the deer of Ireland, and so remained 
all the days of Nemed and his race. 

He tells how the Nemedians sailed for Ireland in a fleet of 
thirty-two barks, in each bark thirty persons. They went astray 
on the seas for a year and a half, and most of them perished of 
hunger and thirst or of shipwreck. Nine only escaped — Nemed 
himself, with four men and four women. These landed in Ireland, 
and increased their numbers in the course of time till they were 
8060 men and women. Then all of them mysteriously died. 

Again old age and decrepitude fell upon Tuan, but another 
transformation awaited him. "Once I was standing at the mouth 
of my cave — I still remember it — and I knew that my body 
changed into another form. I was a wild boar. And I sang this 
song about it: 

" 'To-day I am a boar.... Time was when I sat in the 
assembly that gave the judgments of Partholan. It was sung, 
and all praised the melody. How pleasant was the strain of 
my brilliant judgment! How pleasant to the comely young 
women! My chariot went along in majesty and beauty. My 
voice was grave and sweet. My step was swift and firm in 
battle. My face was full of charm. To-day, lo! I am changed 
into a black boar.' 

"That is what I said. Yea, of a surety I was a wild boar. Then I 
[too] became young again, and I was glad. I was king of the boar-herds 


in Ireland; and, faithful to any custom, I went the rounds of my 
abode when I returned into the lands of Ulster, at the times old 
age and wretchedness came upon me. For it was always there 
that my transformations took place, and that is why I went back 
thither to await the renewal of my body." 

Tuan then goes on to tell how Semion son of Stariat settled in 
Ireland, from whom descended the Firbolgs and two other tribes 
who persisted into historic times. Again old age comes on, his 
strength fails him, and he undergoes another transformation; he 
becomes "a great eagle of the sea," and once more rejoices in 
renewed youth and vigour. He then tells how the People of Dana 
came in, "gods and false gods from whom every one knows the 
Irish men of learning are sprung." After these came the Sons of 
Miled, who conquered the People of Dana. All this time Tuan 
kept the shape of the sea-eagle, till one day, finding himself 
about to undergo another transformation, he fasted nine days; 
"then sleep fell upon me, and I was changed into a salmon." 
He rejoices in his new life, escaping for many years the snares 
of the fishermen, till at last he is captured by one of them and 
brought to the wife of Carell, chief of the country. "The woman 
desired me and ate me by herself, whole, so that I passed into 
her womb." He is born again, and passes for Tuan son of Carell; 
but the memory of his pre-existence and all his transformations 
and all the history of Ireland that he witnessed since the days of 
Partholan still abides with him, and he teaches all these things to 
the Christian monks, who carefully preserve them. 

This wild tale, with its atmosphere of grey antiquity and of 
childlike wonder, reminds us of the transformations of the Welsh 
Taliessin, who also became an eagle, and points to that doctrine poi] 
of the transmigration of the soul which, as we have seen, haunted 
the imagination of the Celt. 

We have now to add some details to the sketch of the successive 
colonisations of Ireland outlined by Tuan mac Carell. 

The Nemedians 

82 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The Nemedians, as we have seen, were akin to the 
Partholanians. Both of them came from the mysterious regions 
of the dead, though later Irish accounts, which endeavoured to 
reconcile this mythical matter with Christianity, invented for 
them a descent from Scriptural patriarchs and an origin in earthly 
lands such as Spain or Scythia. Both of them had to do constant 
battle with the Fomorians, whom the later legends make out 
to be pirates from oversea, but who are doubtless divinities 
representing the powers of darkness and evil. There is no legend 
of the Fomorians coming into Ireland, nor were they regarded as 
at any time a regular portion of the population. They were coeval 
with the world itself. Nemed fought victoriously against them in 
four great battles, but shortly afterwards died of a plague which 
carried off 2000 of his people with him. The Fomorians were 
then enabled to establish their tyranny over Ireland. They had 
at this period two kings, More and Conann. The stronghold of 
the Formorian power was on Tory Island, which uplifts its wild 
cliffs and precipices in the Atlantic off the coast of Donegal — a 
fit home for this race of mystery and horror. They extracted 
a crushing tribute from the people of Ireland, two-thirds of all 
the milk and two-thirds of the children of the land. At last the 
Nemedians rise in revolt. Led by three chiefs, they land on Tory 
Island, capture Conann's Tower, and Conann himself falls by the 
[102] hand of the Nemedian chief, Fergus. But More at this moment 

comes into the battle with a fresh host, and utterly routs the 
Nemedians, who are all slain but thirty: 

"The men of Erin were all at the battle, 
After the Fomorians came; 
All of them the sea engulphed, 
Save only three times ten." 

Poem by Eochy O'Flann, circ. A.D. 960. 


The thirty survivors leave Ireland in despair. According to the 
most ancient belief they perished utterly, leaving no descendants, 
but later accounts, which endeavour to make sober history out 
of all these myths, represent one family, that of the chief Britan, 
as settling in Great Britain and giving their name to that country, 
while two others returned to Ireland, after many wanderings, as 
the Firbolgs and People of Dana. 

The Coming of the Firbolgs 

Who were the Firbolgs, and what did they represent in Irish 
legend? The name appears to mean "Men of the Bags," and a 
legend was in later times invented to account for it. It was said 
that after settling in Greece they were oppressed by the people 
of that country, who set them to carry earth from the fertile 
valleys up to the rocky hills, so as to make arable ground of the 
latter. They did their task by means of leathern bags; but at last, 
growing weary of the oppression, they made boats or coracles 
out of their bags, and set sail in them for Ireland. Nennius, 
however, says they came from Spain, for according to him all the 
various races that inhabited Ireland came originally from Spain; 
and "Spain" with him is a rationalistic rendering of the Celtic 
words designating the Land of the Dead. 77 They came in three 
groups, the Fir-Bolg, the Fir-Domnan, and the Galioin, who are [103] 
all generally designated as Firbolgs. They play no great part in 
Irish mythical history, and a certain character of servility and 
inferiority appears to attach to them throughout. 

One of their kings, Eochy 78 mac Ere, took in marriage Taltiu, 
or Telta, daughter of the King of the "Great Plain" (the Land of 
the Dead). Telta had a palace at the place now called after her, 
Telltown (properly Teltin). There she died, and there, even in 
mediaeval Ireland, a great annual assembly or fair was held in her 

The Coming of the People of Dana 

77 De Jubainville, "Irish Mythological Cycle," p. 75. 

' 8 Pronounced "Yeo'hee." See Glossary for this and other words. 

84 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

We now come to by far the most interesting and important of 
the mythical invaders and colonisers of Ireland, the People of 
Dana. The name, Tuatha De Danann, means literally "the folk 
of the god whose mother is Dana." Dana also sometimes bears 
another name, that of Brigit, a goddess held in much honour by 
pagan Ireland, whose attributes are in a great measure transferred 
in legend to the Christian St. Brigit of the sixth century. Her 
name is also found in Gaulish inscriptions as "Brigindo," and 
occurs in several British inscriptions as "Brigantia." She was 
the daughter of the supreme head of the People of Dana, the 
god Dagda, "The Good." She had three sons, who are said to 
have had in common one only son, named Ecne — that is to say, 
"Knowledge," or "Poetry." 79 Ecne, then, may be said to be the 
god whose mother was Dana, and the race to whom she gave 
her name are the clearest representatives we have in Irish myths 
[104] of the powers of Light and Knowledge. It will be remembered 

that alone among all these mythical races Tuan mac Carell gave 
to the People of Dana the name of "gods." Yet it is not as gods 
that they appear in the form in which Irish legends about them 
have now come down to us. Christian influences reduced them 
to the rank of fairies or identified them with the fallen angels. 
They were conquered by the Milesians, who are conceived as an 
entirely human race, and who had all sorts of relations of love 
and war with them until quite recent times. Yet even in the later 
legends a certain splendour and exaltation appears to invest the 
People of Dana, recalling the high estate from which they had 
been dethroned. 

The Popular and the Bardic Conceptions 

Nor must it be overlooked that the popular conception of the 

Danaan deities was probably at all times something different 

from the bardic and Druidic, or in other words the scholarly, 

conception. The latter, as we shall see, represents them as the 

9 The science of the Druids, as we have seen, was conveyed in verse, and 
the professional poets were a branch of the Druidic Order. 


presiding deities of science and poetry. This is not a popular idea; 
it is the product of the Celtic, the Aryan imagination, inspired 
by a strictly intellectual conception. The common people, who 
represented mainly the Megalithic element in the population, 
appear to have conceived their deities as earth-powers — dei 
terreni, as they are explicitly called in the eighth-century "Book 
of Armagh" 80 — presiding, not over science and poetry, but rather 
agriculture, controlling the fecundity of the earth and water, and 
dwelling in hills, rivers, and lakes. In the bardic literature the 
Aryan idea is prominent; the other is to be found in innumerable 
folk-tales and popular observances; but of course in each case a 
considerable amount of interpenetration of the two conceptions [105] 
is to be met with — no sharp dividing line was drawn between 
them in ancient times, and none can be drawn now. 

The Treasures of the Danaans 

Tuan mac Carell says they came to Ireland "out of heaven." 
This is embroidered in later tradition into a narrative telling how 
they sprang from four great cities, whose very names breathe of 
fairydom and romance — Falias, Gorias, Finias, and Murias. Here 
they learned science and craftsmanship from great sages one of 
whom was enthroned in each city, and from each they brought 
with them a magical treasure. From Falias came the stone called 
the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, on which the High-Kings of 
Ireland stood when they were crowned, and which was supposed 
to confirm the election of a rightful monarch by roaring under 
him as he took his place on it. The actual stone which was so 
used at the inauguration of a reign did from immemorial times 
exist at Tara, and was sent thence to Scotland early in the sixth 
century for the crowning of Fergus the Great, son of Ere, who 
begged his brother Murtagh mac Ere, King of Ireland, for the 
loan of it. An ancient prophecy told that wherever this stone 
was, a king of the Scotic (i.e., Irish-Milesian) race should reign. 

80 Meyer and Nutt, "Voyage of Bran," ii. 197. 

86 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

This is the famous Stone of Scone, which never came back to 
Ireland, but was removed to England by Edward I. in 1297, and 
is now the Coronation Stone in Westminster Abbey. Nor has the 
old prophecy been falsified, since through the Stuarts and Fergus 
mac Ere the descent of the British royal family can be traced 
from the historic kings of Milesian Ireland. 

The second treasure of the Danaans was the invincible sword 
of Lugh of the Long Arm, of whom we shall hear later, and this 
[106] sword came from the city of Gorias. From Finias came a magic 

spear, and from Murias the Cauldron of the Dagda, a vessel 
which had the property that it could feed a host of men without 
ever being emptied. 

With these possessions, according to the version given in the 
"Book of Invasions," the People of Dana came into Ireland. 

The Danaans and the Firbolgs 

They were wafted into the land in a magic cloud, making their 
first appearance in Western Connacht. When the cloud cleared 
away, the Firbolgs discovered them in a camp which they had 
already fortified at Moyrein. 

The Firbolgs now sent out one of their warriors, named Sreng, 
to interview the mysterious new-comers; and the People of Dana, 
on their side, sent a warrior named Bres to represent them. The 
two ambassadors examined each other's weapons with great 
interest. The spears of the Danaans, we are told, were light and 
sharp-pointed; those of the Firbolgs were heavy and blunt. To 
contrast the power of science with that of brute force is here the 
evident intention of the legend, and we are reminded of the Greek 
myth of the struggle of the Olympian deities with the Titans. 

Bres proposed to the Firbolg that the two races should divide 
Ireland equally between them, and join to defend it against 
all comers for the future. They then exchanged weapons and 
returned each to his own camp. 

The First Battle of Moytura 


The Firbolgs, however, were not impressed with the 
superiority of the Danaans, and decided to refuse their offer. 
The battle was joined on the Plain of Moytura, 81 in the south of [107] 
Co. Mayo, near the spot now called Cong. The Firbolgs were 
led by their king, mac Ere, and the Danaans by Nuada of the 
Silver Hand, who got his name from an incident in this battle. 
His hand, it is said, was cut off in the fight, and one of the 
skilful artificers who abounded in the ranks of the Danaans made 
him a new one of silver. By their magical and healing arts the 
Danaans gained the victory, and the Firbolg king was slain. But 
a reasonable agreement followed: the Firbolgs were allotted the 
province of Connacht for their territory, while the Danaans took 
the rest of Ireland. So late as the seventeenth century the annalist 
Mac Firbis discovered that many of the inhabitants of Connacht 
traced their descent to these same Firbolgs. Probably they were 
a veritable historic race, and the conflict between them and the 
People of Dana may be a piece of actual history invested with 
some of the features of a myth. 

The Expulsion of King Bres 

Nuada of the Silver Hand should now have been ruler of the 
Danaans, but his mutilation forbade it, for no blemished man 
might be a king in Ireland. The Danaans therefore chose Bres, 
who was the son of a Danaan woman named Eri, but whose 
father was unknown, to reign over them instead. This was 
another Bres, not the envoy who had treated with the Firbolgs 
and who was slain in the battle of Moytura. Now Bres, although 
strong and beautiful to look on, had no gift of kingship, for he 
not only allowed the enemy of Ireland, the Fomorians, to renew 
their oppression and taxation in the land, but he himself taxed 
his subjects heavily too; and was so niggardly that he gave no 
hospitality to chiefs and nobles and harpers. Lack of generosity 
and hospitality was always reckoned the worst of vices in an [108] 

"Moytura" means "The Plain of the Towers" — i. e. , sepulchral monuments. 

88 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Irish prince. One day it is said that there came to his court the 
poet Corpry, who found himself housed in a small, dark chamber 
without fire or furniture, where, after long delay, he was served 
with three dry cakes and no ale. In revenge he composed a 
satirical quatrain on his churlish host: 

"Without food quickly served, 

Without a cow's milk, whereon a calf can grow, 

Without a dwelling fit for a man under the gloomy night, 

Without means to entertain a bardic company, — 

Let such be the condition of Bres." 

Poetic satire in Ireland was supposed to have a kind of magical 
power. Kings dreaded it; even rats could be exterminated by it. 82 
This quatrain of Corpry's was repeated with delight among the 
people, and Bres had to lay down his sovranty. This was said 
to be the first satire ever made in Ireland. Meantime, because 
Nuada had got his silver hand through the art of his physician 
Diancecht, or because, as some versions of the legend say, a still 
greater healer, the son of Diancecht, had made the veritable hand 
grow again to the stump, he was chosen to be king in place of 

The latter now betook himself in wrath and resentment to his 
mother Eri, and begged her to give him counsel and to tell him of 
his lineage. Eri then declared to him that his father was Elatha, 
a king of the Fomorians, who had come to her secretly from 
over sea, and when he departed had given her a ring, bidding her 
never bestow it on any man save him whose finger it would fit. 
She now brought forth the ring, and it fitted the finger of Bres, 
[109] who went down with her to the strand where the Fomorian lover 

had landed, and they sailed together for his father's home. 

The Tyranny of the Fomorians 

82 Shakespeare alludes to this in "As You Like It." "I never was so be-rhymed," 
says Rosalind, "since Pythagoras' time, that I was an Irish rat — which I can 
hardly remember." 


Elatha recognised the ring, and gave his son an army wherewith 
to reconquer Ireland, and also sent him to seek further aid from 
the greatest of the Fomorian kings, Balor. Now Balor was 
surnamed "of the Evil Eye," because the gaze of his one eye 
could slay like a thunderbolt those on whom he looked in anger. 
He was now, however, so old and feeble that the vast eyelid 
drooped over the death-dealing eye, and had to be lifted up by 
his men with ropes and pulleys when the time came to turn it 
on his foes. Nuada could make no more head against him than 
Bres had done when king; and the country still groaned under 
the oppression of the Fomorians and longed for a champion and 

The Coming of Lugh 

A new figure now comes into the myth, no other than Lugh son 
of Kian, the Sun-god par excellence of all Celtica, whose name 
we can still identify in many historic sites on the Continent. 83 To 
explain his appearance we must desert for a moment the ancient 
manuscript authorities, which are here incomplete, and have to 
be supplemented by a folk-tale which was fortunately discovered 
and taken down orally so late as the nineteenth century by the 
great Irish antiquary, O'Donovan. 84 In this folk-tale the names of [no] 
Balor and his daughter Ethlinn (the latter in the form "Ethnea") 
are preserved, as well as those of some other mythical personages, 
but that of the father of Lugh is faintly echoed in MacKineely; 
Lugh's own name is forgotten, and the death of Balor is given 
in a manner inconsistent with the ancient myth. In the story as I 
give it here the antique names and mythical outline are preserved, 
but are supplemented where required from the folk-tale, omitting 
from the latter those modern features which are not reconcilable 

83 Lyons, Leyden, Laon were all in ancient times known as Lug-dunum, the 
Fortress of Lugh. Luguvallum was the name of a town near Hadrian's Wall in 
Roman Britain. 

84 It is given by him in a note to the "Four Masters," vol. i. p. 18, and is also 
reproduced by de Jubainville. 

90 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

with the myth. 

The story, then, goes that Balor, the Fomorian king, heard in 
a Druidic prophecy that he would be slain by his grandson. His 
only child was an infant daughter named Ethlinn. To avert the 
doom he, like Acrisios, father of Danae, in the Greek myth, had 
her imprisoned in a high tower which he caused to be built on 
a precipitous headland, the Tor Mdr, in Tory Island. He placed 
the girl in charge of twelve matrons, who were strictly charged 
to prevent her from ever seeing the face of man, or even learning 
that there were any beings of a different sex from her own. In 
this seclusion Ethlinn grew up — as all sequestered princesses 
do — into a maiden of surpassing beauty. 

Now it happened that there were on the mainland three 
brothers, namely, Kian, Sawan, and Goban the Smith, the great 
armourer and artificer of Irish myth, who corresponds to Wayland 
Smith in Germanic legend. Kian had a magical cow, whose milk 
was so abundant that every one longed to possess her, and he had 
to keep her strictly under protection. 

Balor determined to possess himself of this cow. One day Kian 
and Sawan had come to the forge to have some weapons made 
for them, bringing fine steel for that purpose. Kian went into the 
[in] forge, leaving Sawan in charge of the cow. Balor now appeared 

on the scene, taking on himself the form of a little redheaded 
boy, and told Sawan that he had overheard the brothers inside 
the forge concocting a plan for using all the fine steel for their 
own swords, leaving but common metal for that of Sawan. The 
latter, in a great rage, gave the cow's halter to the boy and rushed 
into the forge to put a stop to this nefarious scheme. Balor 
immediately carried off the cow, and dragged her across the sea 
to Tory Island. 

Kian now determined to avenge himself on Balor, and to this 
end sought the advice of a Druidess named Birdg. Dressing 
himself in woman's garb, he was wafted by magical spells across 
the sea, where Birdg, who accompanied him, represented to 


Ethlinn's guardians that they were two noble ladies cast upon 
the shore in escaping from an abductor, and begged for shelter. 
They were admitted; Kian found means to have access to the 
Princess Ethlinn while the matrons were laid by Birog under the 
spell of an enchanted slumber, and when they awoke Kian and 
the Druidess had vanished as they came. But Ethlinn had given 
Kian her love, and soon her guardians found that she was with 
child. Fearing Balor's wrath, the matrons persuaded her that the 
whole transaction was but a dream, and said nothing about it; but 
in due time Ethlinn was delivered of three sons at a birth. 

News of this event came to Balor, and in anger and fear he 
commanded the three infants to be drowned in a whirlpool off the 
Irish coast. The messenger who was charged with this command 
rolled up the children in a sheet, but in carrying them to the 
appointed place the pin of the sheet came loose, and one of the 
children dropped out and fell into a little bay, called to this day 
Port na Delig, or the Haven of the Pin. The other two were duly [112] 
drowned, and the servant reported his mission accomplished. 

But the child who had fallen into the bay was guarded by the 
Druidess, who wafted it to the home of its father, Kian, and Kian 
gave it in fosterage to his brother the smith, who taught the child 
his own trade and made it skilled in every manner of craft and 
handiwork. This child was Lugh. When he was grown to a youth 
the Danaans placed him in charge of Duach, "The Dark," king 
of the Great Plain (Fairyland, or the "Land of the Living," which 
is also the Land of the Dead), and here he dwelt till he reached 

Lugh was, of course, the appointed redeemer of the Danaan 
people from their servitude. His coming is narrated in a story 
which brings out the solar attributes of universal power, and 
shows him, like Apollo, as the presiding deity of all human 
knowledge and of all artistic and medicinal skill. He came, it is 
told, to take service with Nuada of the Silver Hand, and when the 
doorkeeper at the royal palace of Tara asked him what he could 

92 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

do, he answered that he was a carpenter. 

"We are in no need of a carpenter," said the doorkeeper; "we 
have an excellent one in Luchta son of Luchad." "I am a smith 
too," said Lugh. "We have a master-smith," said the doorkeeper, 
"already." "Then I am a warrior," said Lugh. "We do not need 
one," said the doorkeeper, "while we have Ogma." Lugh goes 
on to name all the occupations and arts he can think of — he is 
a poet, a harper, a man of science, a physician, a spencer, and 
so forth, always receiving the answer that a man of supreme 
accomplishment in that art is already installed at the court of 
Nuada. "Then ask the King," said Lugh, "if he has in his service 
any one man who is accomplished in every one of these arts, 
[113] and if he have, I shall stay here no longer, nor seek to enter his 

palace." Upon this Lugh is received, and the surname Ildanach 
is conferred upon him, meaning "The All-Craftsman," Prince of 
all the Sciences; while another name that he commonly bore was 
Lugh Lamfada, or Lugh of the Long Arm. We are reminded here, 
as de Jubainville points out, of the Gaulish god whom Caesar 
identifies with Mercury, "inventor of all the arts," and to whom 
the Gauls put up many statues. The Irish myth supplements this 
information and tells us the Celtic name of this deity. 

When Lugh came from the Land of the Living he brought 
with him many magical gifts. There was the Boat of Mananan, 
son of Lir the Sea God, which knew a man's thoughts and would 
travel whithersoever he would, and the Horse of Mananan, that 
could go alike over land and sea, and a terrible sword named 
Fragarach ("The Answerer"), that could cut through any mail. 
So equipped, he appeared one day before an assembly of the 
Danaan chiefs who were met to pay their tribute to the envoys of 
the Fomorian oppressors; and when the Danaans saw him, they 
felt, it is said, as if they beheld the rising of the sun on a dry 
summer's day. Instead of paying the tribute, they, under Lugh's 
leadership, attacked the Fomorians, all of whom were slain but 
nine men, and these were sent back to tell Balor that the Danaans 


defied him and would pay no tribute henceforward. Balor then 
made him ready for battle, and bade his captains, when they had 
subdued the Danaans, make fast the island by cables to their 
ships and tow it far northward to the Fomorian regions of ice and 
gloom, where it would trouble them no longer. 

The Quest of the Sons of Turenn 

Lugh, on his side, also prepared for the final combat; but to 
ensure victory certain magical instruments were still needed for [114] 
him, and these had now to be obtained. The story of the quest 
of these objects, which incidentally tells us also of the end of 
Lugh's father, Kian, is one of the most valuable and curious in 
Irish legend, and formed one of a triad of mythical tales which 
were reckoned as the flower of Irish romance. 85 

Kian, the story goes, was sent northward by Lugh to summon 
the fighting men of the Danaans in Ulster to the hosting against the 
Fomorians. On his way, as he crosses the Plain of Murthemney, 
near Dundalk, he meets with three brothers, Brian, Iuchar, and 
Iucharba, sons of Turenn, between whose house and that of Kian 
there was a blood-feud. He seeks to avoid them by changing into 
the form of a pig and joining a herd which is rooting in the plain, 
but the brothers detect him and Brian wounds him with a cast 
from a spear. Kian, knowing that his end is come, begs to be 
allowed to change back into human form before he is slain. "I had 
liefer kill a man than a pig," says Brian, who takes throughout 
the leading part in all the brothers' adventures. Kian then stands 
before them as a man, with the blood from Brian's spear trickling 
from his breast. "I have outwitted ye," he cries, "for if ye had 
slain a pig ye would have paid but the eric [blood-fine] of a pig, 

and "The Fate of 

the Sons of Usna." The stories of the Quest of the Sons of Turenn and that of 
the Children of Lir have been told in full by the author in his "High Deeds of 
Finn and other Bardic Romances," and that of the "Sons of Usna" (the Deirdre 
Legend) by Miss Eleanor Hull in her "Cuchulain," both published by Harrap 
and Co 

94 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

but now ye shall pay the eric of a man; never was greater eric 
than that which ye shall pay; and the weapons ye slay me with 
shall tell the tale to the avenger of blood." 

[115] "Then you shall be slain with no weapons at all," says Brian, 

and he and the brothers stone him to death and bury him in the 
ground as deep as the height of a man. 

But when Lugh shortly afterwards passes that way the stones 
on the plain cry out and tell him of his father's murder at the 
hands of the sons of Turenn. He uncovers the body, and, vowing 
vengeance, returns to Tara. Here he accuses the sons of Turenn 
before the High King, and is permitted to have them executed, 
or to name the eric he will accept in remission of that sentence. 
Lugh chooses to have the eric, and he names it as follows, 
concealing things of vast price, and involving unheard-of toils, 
under the names of common objects: Three apples, the skin of 
a pig, a spear, a chariot with two horses, seven swine, a hound, 
a cooking-spit, and, finally, to give three shouts on a hill. The 
brothers bind themselves to pay the fine, and Lugh then declares 
the meaning of it. The three apples are those which grow in the 
Garden of the Sun; the pig-skin is a magical skin which heals 
every wound and sickness if it can be laid on the sufferer, and 
it is a possession of the King of Greece; the spear is a magical 
weapon owned by the King of Persia (these names, of course, 
are mere fanciful appellations for places in the mysterious world 
of Faery); the seven swine belong to King Asal of the Golden 
Pillars, and may be killed and eaten every night and yet be found 
whole next day; the spit belongs to the sea-nymphs of the sunken 
Island of Finchory; and the three shouts are to be given on the 
hill of a fierce warrior, Mochaen, who, with his sons, are under 
vows to prevent any man from raising his voice on that hill. To 
fulfil any one of these enterprises would be an all but impossible 
task, and the brothers must accomplish them all before they can 

[116] clear themselves of the guilt and penalty of Kian's death. 

The story then goes on to tell how with infinite daring and 


resource the sons of Turenn accomplish one by one all their tasks, 
but when all are done save the capture of the cooking-spit and 
the three shouts on the Hill of Mochaen, Lugh, by magical arts, 
causes forgetfulness to fall upon them, and they return to Ireland 
with their treasures. These, especially the spear and the pig-skin, 
are just what Lugh needs to help him against the Fomorians; but 
his vengeance is not complete, and after receiving the treasures 
he reminds the brothers of what is yet to be won. They, in deep 
dejection, now begin to understand how they are played with, and 
go forth sadly to win, if they can, the rest of the eric. After long 
wandering they discover that the Island of Finchory is not above, 
but under the sea. Brian in a magical "water-dress" goes down 
to it, sees the thrice fifty nymphs in their palace, and seizes the 
golden spit from their hearth. The ordeal of the Hill of Mochaen 
is the last to be attempted. After a desperate combat which ends 
in the slaying of Mochaen and his sons, the brothers, mortally 
wounded, uplift their voices in three faint cries, and so the eric 
is fulfilled. The life is still in them, however, when they return 
to Ireland, and their aged father, Turenn, implores Lugh for the 
loan of the magic pig-skin to heal them; but the implacable Lugh 
refuses, and the brothers and their father die together. So ends 
the tale. 

The Second Battle of Moytura 

The Second Battle of Moytura took place on a plain in the 
north of Co. Sligo, which is remarkable for the number of 
sepulchral monuments still scattered over it. The first battle, of 
course, was that which the Danaans had waged with the Firbolgs, 
and the Moytura there referred to was much further south, in 
Co. Mayo. The battle with the Fomorians is related with an [117] 
astounding wealth of marvellous incident. The craftsmen of the 
Danaans, Goban the smith, Credne the artificer (or goldsmith), 
and Luchta the carpenter, keep repairing the broken weapons 
of the Danaans with magical speed — three blows of Goban's 
hammer make a spear or sword, Luchta flings a handle at it and 

96 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

it sticks on at once, and Credne jerks the rivets at it with his 
tongs as fast as he makes them and they fly into their places. The 
wounded are healed by the magical pig-skin. The plain resounds 
with the clamour of battle: 

"Fearful indeed was the thunder which rolled over 
the battlefield; the shouts of the warriors, the breaking of 
the shields, the flashing and clashing of the swords, of the 
straight, ivory-hilted swords, the music and harmony of the 
'belly-darts' and the sighing and winging of the spears and 
lances." 86 

The Death of Balor 

The Fomorians bring on their champion, Balor, before the 
glance of whose terrible eye Nuada of the Silver Hand and others 
of the Danaans go down. But Lugh, seizing an opportunity 
when the eyelid drooped through weariness, approached close 
to Balor, and as it began to lift once more he hurled into the 
eye a great stone which sank into the brain, and Balor lay dead, 
as the prophecy had foretold, at the hand of his grandson. The 
Fomorians were then totally routed, and it is not recorded that 
they ever again gained any authority or committed any extensive 
depredations in Ireland. Lugh, the Ildanach, was then enthroned 
[118] in place of Nuada, and the myth of the victory of the solar hero 

over the powers of darkness and brute force is complete. 

The Harp of the Dagda 

A curious little incident bearing on the power which the 
Danaans could exercise by the spell of music may here be 
inserted. The flying Fomorians, it is told, had made prisoner 
the harper of the Dagda and carried him off with them. Lugh, 
the Dagda, and the warrior Ogma followed them, and came 
unknown into the banqueting-hall of the Fomorian camp. There 
they saw the harp hanging on the wall. The Dagda called to it, 
and immediately it flew into his hands, killing nine men of the 

O'Curry's translation from the bardic tale, "The Battle of Moytura.' 


Fomorians on its way. The Dagda's invocation of the harp is very 

singular, and not a little puzzling: 

"Come, apple-sweet murmurer," he cries, "come, four- 
angled frame of harmony, come, Summer, come, Winter, 
from the mouths of harps and bags and pipes." 87 

The allusion to summer and winter suggests the practice in 
Indian music of allotting certain musical modes to the different 
seasons of the year (and even to different times of day), and also 
an Egyptian legend referred to in Burney's "History of Music," 
where the three strings of the lyre were supposed to answer 
respectively to the three seasons, spring, summer, and winter. 88 

When the Dagda got possession of the harp, the tale goes on, 
he played on it the "three noble strains" which every great master [119] 
of the harp should command, namely, the Strain of Lament, 
which caused the hearers to weep, the Strain of Laughter, which 
made them merry, and the Strain of Slumber, or Lullaby, which 
plunged them all in a profound sleep. And under cover of that 
sleep the Danaan champion stole out and escaped. It may be 
observed that throughout the whole of the legendary literature of 
Ireland skill in music, the art whose influence most resembles 
that of a mysterious spell or gift of Faery, is the prerogative of 
the People of Dana and their descendants. Thus in the "Colloquy 
of the Ancients," a collection of tales made about the thirteenth 
or fourteenth century, St. Patrick is introduced to a minstrel, 
Cascorach, "a handsome, curly-headed, dark-browed youth," 
who plays so sweet a strain that the saint and his retinue all 
fall asleep. Cascorach, we are told, was son of a minstrel of 
the Danaan folk. St. Patrick's scribe, Brogan, remarks, "A 
good cast of thine art is that thou gavest us." "Good indeed it 
were," said Patrick, "but for a twang of the fairy spell that infests 

87 O'Curry, "Manners and Customs," iii. 214. 

8 The ancient Irish division of the year contained only these three seasons, 
including autumn in summer (O'Curry, "Manners and Customs," iii. 217).] 

98 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

it; barring which nothing could more nearly resemble heaven's 
harmony." 89 Some of the most beautiful of the antique Irish 
folk- melodies, — e.g., the Coulin — are traditionally supposed to 
have been overheard by mortal harpers at the revels of the Fairy 

Names and Characteristics of the Danaan Deities 

I may conclude this narrative of the Danaan conquest with 
some account of the principal Danaan gods and their attributes, 
which will be useful to readers of the subsequent pages. The 
best with which I am acquainted is to be found in Mr. Standish 
[120] O'Grady's "Critical History of Ireland." 90 This work is no less 

remarkable for its critical insight — it was published in 1881, 
when scientific study of the Celtic mythology was little heard 
of — than for the true bardic imagination, kindred to that of 
the ancient myth-makers themselves, which recreates the dead 
forms of the past and dilates them with the breath of life. The 
broad outlines in which Mr. O'Grady has laid down the typical 
characteristics of the chief personages in the Danaan cycle hardly 
need any correction at this day, and have been of much use to me 
in the following summary of the subject. 

The Dagda 

The Dagda Mdr was the father and chief of the People of 
Dana. A certain conception of vastness attaches to him and to his 
doings. In the Second Battle of Moytura his blows sweep down 
whole ranks of the enemy, and his spear, when he trails it on the 
march, draws a furrow in the ground like the fosse which marks 
the mearing of a province. An element of grotesque humour 
is present in some of the records about this deity. When the 
Fomorians give him food on his visit to their camp, the porridge 
and milk are poured into a great pit in the ground, and he eats 
it with a spoon big enough, it was said, for a man and a woman 
to lie together in it. With this spoon he scrapes the pit, when 

i9 S.H. O'Grady, "Silva Gadelica," p. 191. 

90 Pp. 104 sqq., and passim. 


the porridge is done, and shovels earth and gravel unconcernedly 
down his throat. We have already seen that, like all the Danaans, 
he is a master of music, as well as of other magical endowments, 
and owns a harp which comes flying through the air at his call. 
"The tendency to attribute life to inanimate things is apparent in 
the Homeric literature, but exercises a very great influence in the 
mythology of this country. The living, fiery spear of Lugh; the [121] 
magic ship of Mananan; the sword of Conary Mdr, which sang; 
Cuchulain's sword, which spoke; the Lia Fail, Stone of Destiny, 
which roared for joy beneath the feet of rightful kings; the waves 
of the ocean, roaring with rage and sorrow when such kings are 
in jeopardy; the waters of the Avon Dia, holding back for fear 
at the mighty duel between Cuchulain and Ferdia, are but a few 
out of many examples." 91 A legend of later times tells how once, 
at the death of a great scholar, all the books in Ireland fell from 
their shelves upon the floor. 

Angus Og 

Angus Og (Angus the Young), son of the Dagda, by Boanna 
(the river Boyne), was the Irish god of love. His palace was 
supposed to be at New Grange, on the Boyne. Four bright birds 
that ever hovered about his head were supposed to be his kisses 
taking shape in this lovely form, and at their singing love came 
springing up in the hearts of youths and maidens. Once he fell 
sick of love for a maiden whom he had seen in a dream. He told 
the cause of his sickness to his mother Boanna, who searched all 
Ireland for the girl, but could not find her. Then the Dagda was 
called in, but he too was at a loss, till he called to his aid Bov the 
Red, king of the Danaans of Munster — the same whom we have 
met with in the tale of the Children of Lir, and who was skilled in 
all mysteries and enchantments. Bdv undertook the search, and 
after a year had gone by declared that he had found the visionary 
maiden at a lake called the Lake of the Dragon's Mouth. [122] 

91 O'Grady, loc. cit. 

100 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Angus goes to Bov, and, after being entertained by him three 
days, is brought to the lake shore, where he sees thrice fifty 
maidens walking in couples, each couple linked by a chain of 
gold, but one of them is taller than the rest by a head and 
shoulders. "That is she!" cries Angus. "Tell us by what name she 
is known." Bdv answers that her name is Caer, daughter of Ethal 
Anubal, a prince of the Danaans of Connacht. Angus laments that 
he is not strong enough to carry her off from her companions, but, 
on Bov's advice, betakes himself to Ailell and Maev, the mortal 
King and Queen of Connacht, for assistance. The Dagda and 
Angus then both repair to the palace of Ailell, who feasts them 
for a week, and then asks the cause of their coming. When it is 
declared he answers, "We have no authority over Ethal Anubal." 
They send a message to him, however, asking for the hand of 
Caer for Angus, but Ethal refuses to give her up. In the end he 
is besieged by the combined forces of Ailell and the Dagda, and 
taken prisoner. When Caer is again demanded of him he declares 
that he cannot comply, "for she is more powerful than I." He 
explains that she lives alternately in the form of a maiden and of 
a swan year and year about, "and on the first of November next," 
he says, "you will see her with a hundred and fifty other swans 
at the Lake of the Dragon's Mouth." 

Angus goes there at the appointed time, and cries to her, "Oh, 
come and speak to me!" "Who calls me?" asks Caer. Angus 
explains who he is, and then finds himself transformed into a 
swan. This is an indication of consent, and he plunges in to join 
his love in the lake. After that they fly together to the palace on 
the Boyne, uttering as they go a music so divine that all hearers 
are lulled to sleep for three days and nights. 
[123] Angus is the special deity and friend of beautiful youths and 

maidens. Dermot of the Love-spot, a follower of Finn mac 
Cumhal, and lover of Grania, of whom we shall hear later, was 
bred up with Angus in the palace on the Boyne. He was the 
typical lover of Irish legend. When he was slain by the wild boar 


of Ben Bulben, Angus revives him and carries him off to share 
his immortality in his fairy palace. 

Len of Killarney 

Of B5v the Red, brother of the Dagda, we have already heard. 
He had, it is said, a goldsmith named Len, who "gave their 
ancient name to the Lakes of Killarney, once known as Locha 
Lein, the Lakes of Len of the Many Hammers. Here by the 
lake he wrought, surrounded by rainbows and showers of fiery 
dew." 92 


Lugh has already been described. 93 He has more distinctly 
solar attributes than any other Celtic deity; and, as we know, 
his worship was spread widely over Continental Celtica. In the 
tale of the Quest of the Sons of Turenn we are told that Lugh 
approached the Fomorians from the west. Then Bres, son of 
Balor, arose and said: "I wonder that the sun is rising in the west 
to-day, and in the east every other day." "Would it were so," said 
his Druids. "Why, what else but the sun is it?" said Bres. "It is 
the radiance of the face of Lugh of the Long Arm," they replied. 

Lugh was the father, by the Milesian maiden Dectera, of 
Cuchulain, the most heroic figure in Irish legend, in whose story 
there is evidently a strong element of the solar myth. 94 [124] 

Midir the Proud 

Midir the Proud is a son of the Dagda. His fairy palace is 
at Bri Leith, or Slieve Callary, in Co. Longford. He frequently 
appears in legends dealing partly with human, partly with Danaan 
personages, and is always represented as a type of splendour in 
his apparel and in personal beauty. When he appears to King 
Eochy on the Hill of Tara he is thus described: 95 

92 O'Grady, loc. cit. 

93 Seep. 112. 

94 Miss Hull has discussed this subject fully in the introduction to her 
invaluable work, "The Cuchullin Saga." 

95 See the tale of "Etain and Midir," in Chap. IV. 


102 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"It chanced that Eochaid Airemm, the King of Tara, 
arose upon a certain fair day in the time of summer; and 
he ascended the high ground of Tara 96 to behold the plain 
of Breg; beautiful was the colour of that plain, and there 
was upon it excellent blossom glowing with all hues that are 
known. And as the aforesaid Eochy looked about and around 
him, he saw a young strange warrior upon the high ground at 
his side. The tunic that the warrior wore was purple in colour, 
his hair was of a golden yellow, and of such length that it 
reached to the edge of his shoulders. The eyes of the young 
warrior were lustrous and grey; in the one hand he held a fine 
pointed spear, in the other a shield with a white central boss, 
and with gems of gold upon it. And Eochaid held his peace, 
for he knew that none such had been in Tara on the night 
before, and the gate that led into the Liss had not at that time 
been thrown open." 97 

Lir and Mananan 

Lir, as Mr. O'Grady remarks, "appears in two distinct forms. 
In the first he is a vast, impersonal presence commensurate with 
the sea; in fact, the Greek Oceanus. In the second, he is a separate 
person dwelling invisibly on Slieve Fuad," in Co. Armagh. We 
hear little of him in Irish legend, where the attributes of the 
sea-god are mostly conferred on his son, Mananan. 

This deity is one of the most popular in Irish mythology. He 
was lord of the sea, beyond or under which the Land of Youth 
or Islands of the Dead were supposed to lie; he therefore was 
the guide of man to this country. He was master of tricks and 
illusions, and owned all kinds of magical possessions — the boat 
named Ocean-sweeper, which obeyed the thought of those who 

96 The name Tara is derived from an oblique case of the nominative Teamhair, 
meaning "the place of the wide prospect." It is now a broad grassy hill, in 
Co. Meath, covered with earthworks representing the sites of the ancient royal 
buildings, which can all be clearly located from ancient descriptions. 

97 A.H. Leahy, "Heroic Romances," i. 27. 


sailed in it and went without oar or sail, the steed Aonbarr, which 
could travel alike on sea or land, and the sword named The 
Answerer, which no armour could resist. White-crested waves 
were called the Horses of Mananan, and it was forbidden (tabu) 
for the solar hero, Cuchulain, to perceive them — this indicated 
the daily death of the sun at his setting in the western waves. 
Mananan wore a great cloak which was capable of taking on 
every kind of colour, like the widespread field of the sea as 
looked on from a height; and as the protector of the island of 
Erin it was said that when any hostile force invaded it they heard 
his thunderous tramp and the flapping of his mighty cloak as he 
marched angrily round and round their camp at night. The Isle 
of Man, seen dimly from the Irish coast, was supposed to be the 
throne of Mananan, and to take its name from this deity. [126] 

The Goddess Dana 

The greatest of the Danaan goddesses was Dana, "mother of 
the Irish gods," as she is called in an early text. She was daughter 
of the Dagda, and, like him, associated with ideas of fertility 
and blessing. According to dArbois de Jubainville, she was 
identical with the goddess Brigit, who was so widely worshipped 
in Celtica. Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba are said to have been her 
sons — these really represent but one person, in the usual Irish 
fashion of conceiving the divine power in triads. The name of 
Brian, who takes the lead in all the exploits of the brethren, 98 is a 
derivation from a more ancient form, Brenos, and under this form 
was the god to whom the Celts attributed their victories at the 
Allia and at Delphi, mistaken by Roman and Greek chroniclers 
for an earthly leader. 

The Morrigan 

There was also an extraordinary goddess named the 
Morrigan," who appears to embody all that is perverse and 

98 Seep. 114. 

99 I cannot agree with Mr. O'Grady's identification of this goddess with Dana, 
though the name appears to mean "The Great Queen." 

104 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

horrible among supernatural powers. She delighted in setting 
men at war, and fought among them herself, changing into many 
frightful shapes and often hovering above fighting armies in the 
aspect of a crow. She met Cuchulain once and proffered him 
her love in the guise of a human maid. He refused it, and she 
persecuted him thenceforward for the most of his life. Warring 
with him once in the middle of the stream, she turned herself into 
a water-serpent, and then into a mass of water-weeds, seeking to 
entangle and drown him. But he conquered and wounded her, 
[127] and she afterwards became his friend. Before his last battle she 

passed through Emain Macha at night, and broke the pole of his 
chariot as a warning. 

Cleena's Wave 

One of the most notable landmarks of Ireland was the Tonn 
Cliodhna, or "Wave of Cleena," on the seashore at Glandore Bay, 
in Co. Cork. The story about Cleena exists in several versions, 
which do not agree with each other except in so far as she seems 
to have been a Danaan maiden once living in Mananan's country, 
the Land of Youth beyond the sea. Escaping thence with a mortal 
lover, as one of the versions tells, she landed on the southern 
coast of Ireland, and her lover, Keevan of the Curling Locks, 
went off to hunt in the woods. Cleena, who remained on the 
beach, was lulled to sleep by fairy music played by a minstrel of 
Mananan, when a great wave of the sea swept up and carried her 
back to Fairyland, leaving her lover desolate. Hence the place 
was called the Strand of Cleena's Wave. 

The Goddess Aine 

Another topical goddess was Aine, the patroness of Munster, 
who is still venerated by the people of that county. She was the 
daughter of the Danaan Owel, a foster-son of Mananan and a 
Druid. She is in some sort a love-goddess, continually inspiring 
mortals with passion. She was ravished, it was said, by Ailill 
Olum, King of Munster, who was slain in consequence by her 
magic arts, and the story is repeated in far later times about 


another mortal lover, who was not, however, slain, a Fitzgerald, 
to whom she bore the famous wizard Earl. 100 Many of the 
aristocratic families of Munster claimed descent from this union. [128] 
Her name still clings to the "Hill of Aine" (Knockainey), near 
Loch Gur, in Munster. All the Danaan deities in the popular 
imagination were earth-gods, del terreni, associated with ideas 
of fertility and increase. Aine is not heard much of in the 
bardic literature, but she is very prominent in the folk-lore of 
the neighbourhood. At the bidding of her son, Earl Gerald, she 
planted all Knockainey with pease in a single night. She was, and 
perhaps still is, worshipped on Midsummer Eve by the peasantry, 
who carried torches of hay and straw, tied on poles and lighted, 
round her hill at night. Afterwards they dispersed themselves 
among their cultivated fields and pastures, waving the torches 
over the crops and the cattle to bring luck and increase for the 
following year. On one night, as told by Mr. D. Fitzgerald, 101 
who has collected the local traditions about her, the ceremony 
was omitted owing to the death of one of the neighbours. Yet the 
peasantry at night saw the torches in greater number than ever 
circling the hill, and Aine herself in front, directing and ordering 
the procession. 

"On another St. John's Night a number of girls had stayed 
late on the Hill watching the cliars (torches) and joining in the 
games. Suddenly Aine appeared among them, thanked them for 
the honour they had done her, but said she now wished them to 
go home, as they wanted the hill to themselves. She let them 
understand whom she meant by they, for calling some of the [129] 
girls she made them look through a ring, when behold, the hill 

100 Gerald, the fourth Earl of Desmond. He disappeared, it is said, in 1398, 
and the legend goes that he still lives beneath the waters of Loch Gur, and 
may be seen riding round its banks on his white steed once every seven years. 
He was surnamed "Gerald the Poet" from the "witty and ingenious" verses 
he composed in Gaelic. Wizardry, poetry, and science were all united in one 
conception in the mind of the ancient Irish. 

101 "Popular Tales of Ireland," by D. Fitzgerald, in "Revue Celtique," vol. iv. 

106 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

appeared crowded with people before invisible." 

"Here," observed Mr. Alfred Nutt, "we have the antique 
ritual carried out on a spot hallowed to one of the antique 
powers, watched over and shared in by those powers themselves. 
Nowhere save in Gaeldom could be found such a pregnant 
illustration of the identity of the fairy class with the venerable 
powers to ensure whose goodwill rites and sacrifices, originally 
fierce and bloody, now a mere simulacrum of their pristine form, 
have been performed for countless ages." 102 

Sinend and the Well of Knowledge 

There is a singular myth which, while intended to account for 
the name of the river Shannon, expresses the Celtic veneration 
for poetry and science, combined with the warning that they may 
not be approached without danger. The goddess Sinend, it was 
said, daughter of Lodan son of Lir, went to a certain well named 
Connla's Well, which is under the sea — i.e., in the Land of Youth 
in Fairyland. "That is a well," says the bardic narrative, "at which 
are the hazels of wisdom and inspirations, that is, the hazels of 
the science of poetry, and in the same hour their fruit and their 
blossom and their foliage break forth, and then fall upon the well 
in the same shower, which raises upon the water a royal surge 
of purple." When Sinend came to the well we are not told what 
rites or preparation she had omitted, but the angry waters broke 
forth and overwhelmed her, and washed her up on the Shannon 
shore, where she died, giving to the river its name. 103 This myth 
[130] of the hazels of inspiration and knowledge and their association 

with springing water runs through all Irish legend, and has been 
finely treated by a living Irish poet, Mr. GW. Russell, in the 
following verses: 

">A cabin on the mountain-side hid in a grassy nook, 

11 "The Voyage of Bran," vol. ii. p. 219. 

103 In Irish, Sionnain. 


With door and window open wide, where friendly stars may 

The rabbit shy may patter in, the winds may enter free 
Who roam around the mountain throne in living ecstasy. 

"And when the sun sets dimmed in eve, and purple fills the air, 
I think the sacred hazel-tree is dropping berries there, 
From starry fruitage, waved aloft where Connla's Well 

For sure, the immortal waters run through every wind that 


"I think when Night towers up aloft and shakes the trembling 

How every high and lonely thought that thrills my spirit through 
Is but a shining berry dropped down through the purple air, 
And from the magic tree of life the fruit falls everywhere." 

The Coming of the Milesians 

After the Second Battle of Moytura the Danaans held rule in 
Ireland until the coming of the Milesians, the sons of Miled. 
These are conceived in Irish legend as an entirely human race, 
yet in their origin they, like the other invaders of Ireland, go back 
to a divine and mythical ancestry. Miled, whose name occurs as 
a god in a Celtic inscription from Hungary, is represented as a 
son of Bile. Bile, like Balor, is one of the names of the god of 
Death, i.e., of the Underworld. They come from "Spain" — the 
usual term employed by the later rationalising historians for the 
Land of the Dead. 

The manner of their coming into Ireland was as follows: Ith, 
the grandfather of Miled, dwelt in a great tower which his father, 
Bregon, had built in "Spain." One clear winter's day, when 
looking out westwards from this lofty tower, he saw the coast of 
Ireland in the distance, and resolved to sail to the unknown land. [131] 

108 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

He embarked with ninety warriors, and took land at Corcadyna, 
in the south-west. In connexion with this episode I may quote a 
passage of great beauty and interest from de Jubainville's "Irish 
Mythological Cycle": 104 

"According to an unknown writer cited by Plutarch, who died 
about the year 120 of the present era, and also by Procopius, who 
wrote in the sixth century A.D., 'the Land of the Dead' is the 
western extremity of Great Britain, separated from the eastern 
by an impassable wall. On the northern coast of Gaul, says the 
legend, is a populace of mariners whose business is to carry the 
dead across from the continent to their last abode in the island of 
Britain. The mariners, awakened in the night by the whisperings 
of some mysterious voice, arise and go down to the shore, where 
they find ships awaiting them which are not their own, 10 and, 
in these, invisible beings, under whose weight the vessels sink 
almost to the gunwales. They go on board, and with a single 
stroke of the oar, says one text, in one hour, says another, they 
arrive at their destination, though with their own vessels, aided 
by sails, it would have taken them at least a day and a night to 
reach the coast of Britain. When they come to the other shore 
the invisible passengers land, and at the same time the unloaded 
ships are seen to rise above the waves, and a voice is heard 
announcing the names of the new arrivals, who have just been 
added to the inhabitants of the Land of the Dead. 

"One stroke of the oar, one hour's voyage at most, suffices for 
[132] the midnight journey which transfers the Dead from the Gaulish 

continent to their final abode. Some mysterious law, indeed, 
brings together in the night the great spaces which divide the 
domain of the living from that of the dead in daytime. It was the 
same law which enabled Ith one fine winter evening to perceive 

104 Translation by R.I. Best. 

105 The solar vessels found in dolmen carvings. See Chap. II. p. 71 sqq. Note 
that the Celtic spirits, though invisible, are material and have weight; not so 
those in Vergil and Dante. 


from the Tower of Bregon, in the Land of the Dead, the shores 
of Ireland, or the land of the living. The phenomenon took place 
in winter; for winter is a sort of night; winter, like night, lowers 
the barriers between the regions of Death and those of Life; like 
night, winter gives to life the semblance of death, and suppresses, 
as it were, the dread abyss that lies between the two." 

At this time, it is said, Ireland was ruled by three Danaan kings, 
grandsons of the Dagda. Their names were MacCuill, MacCecht, 
and MacGrene, and their wives were named respectively Banba, 
Fohla, and Eriu. The Celtic habit of conceiving divine persons in 
triads is here illustrated. These triads represent one person each, 
and the mythical character of that personage is evident from the 
name of one of them, MacGrene, Son of the Sun. The names 
of the three goddesses have each at different times been applied 
to Ireland, but that of the third, Eriu, has alone persisted, and in 
the dative form, Erinn, is a poetic name for the country to this 
day. That Eriu is the wife of MacGrene means, as de Jubainville 
observes, that the Sun-god, the god of Day, Life, and Science, 
has wedded the land and is reigning over it. 

Ith, on landing, finds that the Danaan king, Neit, has just been 
slain in a battle with the Fomorians, and the three sons, MacCuill 
and the others, are at the fortress of Aileach, in Co. Donegal, 
arranging for a division of the land among themselves. At first 
they welcome Ith, and ask him to settle their inheritance. Ith [133] 
gives his judgment, but, in concluding, his admiration for the 
newly discovered country breaks out: "Act," he says, "according 
to the laws of justice, for the country you dwell in is a good one, 
it is rich in fruit and honey, in wheat and in fish; and in heat and 
cold it is temperate." From this panegyric the Danaans conclude 
that 1th has designs upon their land, and they seize him and 
put him to death. His companions, however, recover his body 
and bear it back with them in their ships to "Spain"; when the 
children of Miled resolve to take vengeance for the outrage and 
prepare to invade Ireland. 

110 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

They were commanded by thirty-six chiefs, each having his 
own ship with his family and his followers. Two of the company 
are said to have perished on the way. One of the sons of Miled, 
having climbed to the masthead of his vessel to look out for the 
coast of Ireland, fell into the sea and was drowned. The other 
was Skena, wife of the poet Amergin, son of Miled, who died on 
the way. The Milesians buried her when they landed, and called 
the place "Inverskena" after her; this was the ancient name of the 
Kenmare River in Co. Kerry. 

"It was on a Thursday, the first of May, and the seventeenth 
day of the moon, that the sons of Miled arrived in Ireland. 
Partholan also landed in Ireland on the first of May, but on a 
different day of the week and of the moon; and it was on the first 
day of May, too, that the pestilence came which in the space of 
one week destroyed utterly his race. The first of May was sacred 
to Beltene, one of the names of the god of Death, the god who 
gives life to men and takes it away from them again. Thus it was 
[134] on the feast day of this god that the sons of Miled began their 

conquest of Ireland." 106 

The Poet Amergin 

When the poet Amergin set foot upon the soil of Ireland it is 
said that he chanted a strange and mystical lay: 

"I am the Wind that blows over the sea, 
I am the Wave of the Ocean; 
I am the Murmur of the billows; 
I am the Ox of the Seven Combats; 
I am the Vulture upon the rock; 
I am a Ray of the Sun; 
I am the fairest of Plants; 
I am a Wild Boar in valour; 

106 De Jubainville, "Irish Mythological Cycle," p. 136. Beltene is the modern 
Irish name for the month of May, and is derived from an ancient root preserved 
in the Old Irish compound epelta, "dead." 


I am a Salmon in the Water; 

I am a Lake in the plain; 

I am the Craft of the artificer; 

I am a Word of Science; 

I am the Spear-point that gives battle; 

I am the god that creates in the head of man the fire of thought. 

Who is it that enlightens the assembly upon the mountain,if not 

Who telleth the ages of the moon, if not I? 
"Who showeth the place where the sun goes to rest, if not I? 

De Jubainville, whose translation I have in the main followed, 
observes upon this strange utterance: 

"There is a lack of order in this composition, the ideas, 
fundamental and subordinate, are jumbled together without 
method; but there is no doubt as to the meaning: the file 
[poet] is the Word of Science, he is the god who gives to man the 
fire of thought; and as science is not distinct from its object, as 
God and Nature are but one, the being of the file is mingled with 
the winds and the waves, with the wild animals and the warrior's [135] 
arms." 107 

Two other poems are attributed to Amergin, in which he 
invokes the land and physical features of Ireland to aid him: 

"I invoke the land of Ireland, 
Shining, shining sea; 
Fertile, fertile Mountain; 
Gladed, gladed wood! 
Abundant river, abundant in water! 
Fish-abounding lake!" 108 

107 "Irish Mythological Cycle," p. 138. 

108 I follow again de Jubainville's translation; but in connexion with this and 
the previous poems see also Ossianic Society's "Transactions," vol. v. 

112 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The Judgment of Amergin 

The Milesian host, after landing, advance to Tara, where they 
find the three kings of the Danaans awaiting them, and summon 
them to deliver up the island. The Danaans ask for three days' 
time to consider whether they shall quit Ireland, or submit, or give 
battle; and they propose to leave the decision, upon their request, 
to Amergin. Amergin pronounces judgment — "the first judgment 
which was delivered in Ireland." He agrees that the Milesians 
must not take their foes by surprise — they are to withdraw the 
length of nine waves from the shore, and then return; if they then 
conquer the Danaans the land is to be fairly theirs by right of 

The Milesians submit to this decision and embark on their 
ships. But no sooner have they drawn off for this mystical 
distance of the nine waves than a mist and storm are raised 
by the sorceries of the Danaans — the coast of Ireland is hidden 
from their sight, and they wander dispersed upon the ocean. To 
[136] ascertain if it is a natural or a Druidic tempest which afflicts them, 

a man named Aranan is sent up to the masthead to see if the wind 
is blowing there also or not. He is flung from the swaying mast, 
but as he falls to his death he cries his message to his shipmates: 
"There is no storm aloft." Amergin, who as poet — that is to say, 
Druid — takes the lead in all critical situations, thereupon chants 
his incantation to the land of Erin. The wind falls, and they turn 
their prows, rejoicing, towards the shore. But one of the Milesian 
lords, Eber Donn, exults in brutal rage at the prospect of putting 
all the dwellers in Ireland to the sword; the tempest immediately 
springs up again, and many of the Milesian ships founder, Eber 
Donn's being among them. At last a remnant of the Milesians 
find their way to shore, and land in the estuary of the Boyne. 

The Defeat of the Danaans 

A great battle with the Danaans at Telltown 109 then follows. 

109 Teltin; so named after the goddess Telta. See p. 103. 


The three kings and three queens of the Danaans, with many 
of their people, are slain, and the children of Miled — the last 
of the mythical invaders of Ireland — enter upon the sovranty of 
Ireland. But the People of Dana do not withdraw. By their 
magic art they cast over themselves a veil of invisibility, which 
they can put on or off as they choose. There are two Irelands 
henceforward, the spiritual and the earthly. The Danaans dwell 
in the spiritual Ireland, which is portioned out among them by 
their great overlord, the Dagda. Where the human eye can see 
but green mounds and ramparts, the relics of ruined fortresses or 
sepulchres, there rise the fairy palaces of the defeated divinities; 
there they hold their revels in eternal sunshine, nourished by the 
magic meat and ale that give them undying youth and beauty; [137] 
and thence they come forth at times to mingle with mortal men 
in love or in war. The ancient mythical literature conceives them 
as heroic and splendid in strength and beauty. In later times, and 
as Christian influences grew stronger, they dwindle into fairies, 
the People of the Sidhe; 110 but they have never wholly perished; 
to this day the Land of Youth and its inhabitants live in the 
imagination of the Irish peasant. 

The Meaning of the Danaan Myth 

All myths constructed by a primitive people are symbols, and if 
we can discover what it is that they symbolise we have a valuable 
clue to the spiritual character, and sometimes even to the history, 
of the people from whom they sprang. Now the meaning of the 
Danaan myth as it appears in the bardic literature, though it has 
undergone much distortion before it reached us, is perfectly clear. 
The Danaans represent the Celtic reverence for science, poetry, 
and artistic skill, blended, of course, with the earlier conception 
of the divinity of the powers of Light. In their combat with the 
Firbolgs the victory of the intellect over dulness and ignorance is 
plainly portrayed — the comparison of the heavy, blunt weapon 

110 Pronounced "Shee." It means literally the People of the [Fairy] Mounds. 

114 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

of the Firbolgs with the light and penetrating spears of the People 
of Dana is an indication which it is impossible to mistake. Again, 
in their struggle with a far more powerful and dangerous enemy, 
the Fomorians, we are evidently to see the combat of the powers 
of Light with evil of a more positive kind than that represented 
by the Firbolgs. The Fomorians stand not for mere dulness or 
[138] stupidity, but for the forces of tyranny, cruelty, and greed — for 

moral rather than for intellectual darkness. 

The Meaning of the Milesian Myth 

But the myth of the struggle of the Danaans with the sons 
of Miled is more difficult to interpret. How does it come that 
the lords of light and beauty, wielding all the powers of thought 
(represented by magic and sorcery), succumbed to a human race, 
and were dispossessed by them of their hard-won inheritance? 
What is the meaning of this shrinking of their powers which 
at once took place when the Milesians came on the scene? 
The Milesians were not on the side of the powers of darkness. 
They were guided by Amergin, a clear embodiment of the idea 
of poetry and thought. They were regarded with the utmost 
veneration, and the dominant families of Ireland all traced their 
descent to them. Was the Kingdom of Light, then, divided against 
itself? Or, if not, to what conception in the Irish mind are we to 
trace the myth of the Milesian invasion and victory? 

The only answer I can see to this puzzling question is to 
suppose that the Milesian myth originated at a much later time 
than the others, and was, in its main features, the product of 
Christian influences. The People of Dana were in possession of 
the country, but they were pagan divinities — they could not stand 
for the progenitors of a Christian Ireland. They had somehow or 
other to be got rid of, and a race of less embarrassing antecedents 
substituted for them. So the Milesians were fetched from "Spain" 
and endowed with the main characteristics, only more humanised, 
of the People of Dana. But the latter, in contradistinction to the 
usual attitude of early Christianity, are treated very tenderly in the 


story of their overthrow. One of them has the honour of giving [139] 
her name to the island, the brutality of one of the conquerors 
towards them is punished with death, and while dispossessed 
of the lordship of the soil they still enjoy life in the fair world 
which by their magic art they have made invisible to mortals. 
They are no longer gods, but they are more than human, and 
frequent instances occur in which they are shown as coming forth 
from their fairy world, being embraced in the Christian fold, and 
entering into heavenly bliss. With two cases of this redemption 
of the Danaans we shall close this chapter on the Invasion Myths 
of Ireland. 

The first is the strange and beautiful tale of the Transformation 
of the Children of Lir. 

The Children of Lir 

Lir was a Danaan divinity, the father of the sea-god Mananan 
who continually occurs in magical tales of the Milesian cycle. He 
had married in succession two sisters, the second of whom was 
named Aoife. l 1 1 She was childless, but the former wife of Lir had 
left him four children, a girl named Fionuala 112 and three boys. 
The intense love of Lir for the children made the stepmother 
jealous, and she ultimately resolved on their destruction. It 
will be observed, by the way, that the People of Dana, though 
conceived as unaffected by time, and naturally immortal, are 
nevertheless subject to violent death either at the hands of each 
other or even of mortals. 

With her guilty object in view, Aoife goes on a journey to a 
neighbouring Danaan king, B5v the Red, taking the four children 
with her. Arriving at a lonely place by Lake Derryvaragh, in 
Westmeath, she orders her attendants to slay the children. They [140] 
refuse, and rebuke her. Then she resolves to do it herself; but, 
says the legend, "her womanhood overcame her," and instead 
of killing the Children she transforms them by spells of sorcery 


116 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

into four white swans, and lays on them the following doom: 
three hundred years they are to spend on the waters of Lake 
Derryvaragh, three hundred on the Straits of Moyle (between 
Ireland and Scotland), and three hundred on the Atlantic by Erris 
and Inishglory. After that, "when the woman of the South is 
mated with the man of the North," the enchantment is to have an 

When the children fail to arrive with Aoife at the palace of 
Bov her guilt is discovered, and Bov changes her into "a demon 
of the air." She flies forth shrieking, and is heard of no more in 
the tale. But Lir and B5v seek out the swan-children, and find 
that they have not only human speech, but have preserved the 
characteristic Danaan gift of making wonderful music. From all 
parts of the island companies of the Danaan folk resort to Lake 
Derryvaragh to hear this wondrous music and to converse with 
the swans, and during that time a great peace and gentleness 
seemed to pervade the land. 

But at last the day came for them to leave the fellowship of 
their kind and take up their life by the wild cliffs and ever angry 
sea of the northern coast. Here they knew the worst of loneliness, 
cold, and storm. Forbidden to land, their feathers froze to the 
rocks in the winter nights, and they were often buffeted and 
driven apart by storms. As Fionuala sings: 

"Cruel to us was Aoife 
Who played her magic upon us, 
And drove us out on the water — 
Four wonderful snow-white swans. 

"Our bath is the frothing brine, 
In bays by red rocks guarded; 
For mead at our father's table 
We drink of the salt, blue sea. 


"Three sons and a single daughter, 
In clefts of the cold rocks dwelling, 
The hard rocks, cruel to mortals — 
We are full of keening to-night." 

Fionuala, the eldest of the four, takes the lead in all their doings, 
and mothers the younger children most tenderly, wrapping her 
plumage round them on nights of frost. At last the time comes 
to enter on the third and last period of their doom, and they take 
flight for the western shores of Mayo. Here too they suffer much 
hardship; but the Milesians have now come into the land, and 
a young farmer named Evric, dwelling on the shores of Erris 
Bay, finds out who and what the swans are, and befriends them. 
To him they tell their story, and through him it is supposed to 
have been preserved and handed down. When the final period 
of their suffering is close at hand they resolve to fly towards the 
palace of their father Lir, who dwells, we are told, at the Hill 
of the White Field, in Armagh, to see how things have fared 
with him. They do so; but not knowing what has happened on 
the coming of the Milesians, they are shocked and bewildered 
to find nothing but green mounds and whin-bushes and nettles 
where once stood — and still stands, only that they cannot see 
it — the palace of their father. Their eyes are holden, we are to 
understand, because a higher destiny was in store for them than 
to return to the Land of Youth. 

On Erris Bay they hear for the first time the sound of a 
Christian bell. It comes from the chapel of a hermit who has 
established himself there. The swans are at first startled and 
terrified by the "thin, dreadful sound," but afterwards approach [142] 
and make themselves known to the hermit, who instructs them in 
the faith, and they join him in singing the offices of the Church. 

Now it happens that a princess of Munster, Deoca, (the 
"woman of the South") became betrothed to a Connacht chief 
named Lairgnen, and begged him as a wedding gift to procure 
for her the four wonderful singing swans whose fame had come 

118 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

to her. He asks them of the hermit, who refuses to give them 
up, whereupon the "man of the North" seizes them violently by 
the silver chains with which the hermit had coupled them, and 
drags them off to Deoca. This is their last trial. Arrived in 
her presence, an awful transformation befalls them. The swan 
plumage falls off, and reveals, not, indeed, the radiant forms 
of the Danaan divinities, but four withered, snowy-haired, and 
miserable human beings, shrunken in the decrepitude of their 
vast old age. Lairgnen flies from the place in horror, but the 
hermit prepares to administer baptism at once, as death is rapidly 
approaching them. "Lay us in one grave," says Fionuala, "and 
place Conn at my right hand and Fiachra at my left, and Hugh 
before my face, for there they were wont to be when I sheltered 
them many a winter night upon the seas of Moyle." And so it 
was done, and they went to heaven; but the hermit, it is said, 
sorrowed for them to the end of his earthly days. 113 

In all Celtic legend there is no more tender and beautiful tale 
than this of the Children of Lir. 

The Tale of Ethne 

But the imagination of the Celtic bard always played with 

[143] delight on the subjects of these transition tales, where the 

reconciling of the pagan order with the Christian was the theme. 

The same conception is embodied in the tale of Ethne, which we 

have now to tell. 

It is said that Mananan mac Lir had a daughter who was given 
in fosterage to the Danaan prince Angus, whose fairy palace was 
at Brugh na Boyna. This is the great sepulchral tumulus now 
called New Grange, on the Boyne. At the same time the steward 
of Angus had a daughter born to him whose name was Ethne, 
and who was allotted to the young princess as her handmaiden. 

Ethne grew up into a lovely and gentle maiden, but it was 
discovered one day that she took no nourishment of any kind, 

113 The story here summarised is given in full in the writer's "High Deeds of 
Finn" (Harrap and Co.). 


although the rest of the household fed as usual on the magic swine 
of Mananan, which might be eaten to-day and were alive again 
for the feast to-morrow. Mananan was called in to penetrate the 
mystery, and the following curious story came to light. One of 
the chieftains of the Danaans who had been on a visit with Angus, 
smitten by the girl's beauty, had endeavoured to possess her by 
force. This woke in Ethne's pure spirit the moral nature which is 
proper to man, and which the Danaan divinities know not. As the 
tale says, her "guardian demon" left her, and an angel of the true 
God took its place. After that event she abstained altogether from 
the food of Faery, and was miraculously nourished by the will of 
God. After a time, however, Mananan and Angus, who had been 
on a voyage to the East, brought back thence two cows whose 
milk never ran dry, and as they were supposed to have come 
from a sacred land Ethne lived on their milk thenceforward. 

All this is supposed to have happened during the reign 
of Eremon, the first Milesian king of all Ireland, who was [144] 
contemporary with King David. At the time of the coming of 
St. Patrick, therefore, Ethne would have been about fifteen 
hundred years of age. The Danaan folk grow up from childhood 
to maturity, but then they abide unaffected by the lapse of time. 

Now it happened one summer day that the Danaan princess 
whose handmaid Ethne was went down with all her maidens to 
bathe in the river Boyne. When arraying themselves afterwards 
Ethne discovered, to her dismay — and this incident was, of 
course, an instance of divine interest in her destiny — that she had 
lost the Veil of Invisibility, conceived here as a magic charm 
worn on the person, which gave her the entrance to the Danaan 
fairyland and hid her from mortal eyes. She could not find her 
way back to the palace of Angus, and wandered up and down the 
banks of the river seeking in vain for her companions and her 
home. At last she came to a walled garden, and, looking through 
the gate, saw inside a stone house of strange appearance and a 
man in a long brown robe. The man was a Christian monk, and 

120 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the house was a little church or oratory. He beckoned her in, and 
when she had told her story to him he brought her to St. Patrick, 
who completed her adoption into the human family by giving her 
the rite of baptism. 

Now comes in a strangely pathetic episode which reveals the 
tenderness, almost the regret, with which early Irish Christianity 
looked back on the lost world of paganism. As Ethne was one 
day praying in the little church by the Boyne she heard suddenly 
a rushing sound in the air, and innumerable voices, as it seemed 
from a great distance, lamenting and calling her name. It was 
her Danaan kindred, who were still seeking for her in vain. She 
sprang up to reply, but was so overcome with emotion that she 
[145] fell in a swoon on the floor. She recovered her senses after a 

while, but from that day she was struck with a mortal sickness, 
and in no long time she died, with her head upon the breast of 
St. Patrick, who administered to her the last rites, and ordained 
that the church should be named after her, Kill Ethne — a name 
doubtless borne, at the time the story was composed, by some 
real church on the banks of Boyne. 1 14 

Christianity and Paganism in Ireland 

These, taken together with numerous other legendary incidents 
which might be quoted, illustrate well the attitude of the early 
Celtic Christians, in Ireland at least, towards the divinities of the 
older faith. They seem to preclude the idea that at the time of 
the conversion of Ireland the pagan religion was associated with 
cruel and barbarous practices, on which the national memory 
would look back with horror and detestation. 


114 It may be mentioned that the syllable "Kill," which enters into so many 
Irish place-names (Kilkenny, Killiney, Kilcooley, &c), usually represents the 
Latin cella, a monastic cell, shrine, or church. 



The Danaans after the Milesian Conquest 

The kings and heroes of the Milesian race now fill the 
foreground of the stage in Irish legendary history. But, as we 
have indicated, the Danaan divinities are by no means forgotten. 
The fairyland in which they dwell is ordinarily inaccessible to 
mortals, yet it is ever near at hand; the invisible barriers may 
be, and often are, crossed by mortal men, and the Danaans 
themselves frequently come forth from them; mortals may win 
brides of Faery who mysteriously leave them after a while, and 
women bear glorious children of supernatural fatherhood. Yet 
whatever the Danaans may have been in the original pre-Christian 
conceptions of the Celtic Irish, it would be a mistake to suppose 
that they figure in the legends, as these have now come down 
to us, in the light of gods as we understand this term. They 
are for the most part radiantly beautiful, they are immortal (with 
limitations), and they wield mysterious powers of sorcery and 
enchantment. But no sort of moral governance of the world is 
ever for a moment ascribed to them, nor (in the bardic literature) 
is any act of worship paid to them. They do not die naturally, 
but they can be slain both by each other and by mortals, and on 
the whole the mortal race is the stronger. Their strength when 
they come into conflict (as frequently happens) with men lies in 
stratagem and illusion; when the issue can be fairly knit between 
the rival powers it is the human that conquers. The early kings 
and heroes of the Milesian race are, indeed, often represented as 
so mightily endowed with supernatural power that it is impossible 
to draw a clear distinction between them and the People of Dana 

122 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

[147] in this respect. The Danaans are much nobler and more exalted 

beings, as they figure in the bardic literature, than the fairies into 
which they ultimately degenerated in the popular imagination; 
they may be said to hold a position intermediate between these 
and the Greek deities as portrayed in Homer. But the true worship 
of the Celts, in Ireland as elsewhere, seems to have been paid, 
not to these poetical personifications of their ideals of power 
and beauty, but rather to elemental forces represented by actual 
natural phenomena — rocks, rivers, the sun, the wind, the sea. 
The most binding of oaths was to swear by the Wind and Sun, or 
to invoke some other power of nature; no name of any Danaan 
divinity occurs in an Irish oath formula. When, however, in the 
later stages of the bardic literature, and still more in the popular 
conceptions, the Danaan deities had begun to sink into fairies, we 
find rising into prominence a character probably older than that 
ascribed to them in the literature, and, in a way, more august. In 
the literature it is evident that they were originally representatives 
of science and poetry — the intellectual powers of man. But in 
the popular mind they represented, probably at all times and 
certainly in later Christian times, not intellectual powers, but 
those associated with the fecundity of earth. They were, as 
a passage in the Book of Armagh names them, dei terreni, 
earth-gods, and were, and are still, invoked by the peasantry to 
yield increase and fertility. The literary conception of them is 
plainly Druidic in origin, the other popular; and the popular and 
doubtless older conception has proved the more enduring. 

But these features of Irish mythology will appear better in the 
actual tales than in any critical discussion of them; and to the 
[148] tales let us now return. 

The Milesian Settlement of Ireland 

The Milesians had three leaders when they set out for the 
conquest of Ireland — Eber Donn (Brown Eber), Eber Finn (Fair 
Eber), and Eremon. Of these the first-named, as we have seen, 
was not allowed to enter the land — he perished as a punishment 


for his brutality. When the victory over the Danaans was secure 
the two remaining brothers turned to the Druid Amergin for a 
judgment as to their respective titles to the sovranty. Eremon 
was the elder of the two, but Eber refused to submit to him. Thus 
Irish history begins, alas! with dissension and jealousy. Amergin 
decided that the land should belong to Eremon for his life, and 
pass to Eber after his death. But Eber refused to submit to the 
award, and demanded an immediate partition of the new-won 
territory. This was agreed to, and Eber took the southern half 
of Ireland, "from the Boyne to the Wave of Cleena," 115 while 
Eremon occupied the north. But even so the brethren could not 
be at peace, and after a short while war broke out between them. 
Eber was slain, and Eremon became sole King of Ireland, which 
he ruled from Tara, the traditional seat of that central authority 
which was always a dream of the Irish mind, but never a reality 
of Irish history. 

Tiernmas and Crom Cruach 

Of the kings who succeeded Eremon, and the battles they 
fought and the forests they cleared away and the rivers and lakes 
that broke out in their reign, there is little of note to record 
till we come to the reign of Tiernmas, fifth in succession from 
Eremon. He is said to have introduced into Ireland the worship of [149] 
Crom Cruach, on Moyslaught (The Plain of Adoration 116 ), and 
to have perished himself with three-fourths of his people while 
worshipping this idol on November Eve, the period when the 
reign of winter was inaugurated. Crom Cruach was no doubt a 
solar deity, but no figure at all resembling him can be identified 
among the Danaan divinities. Tiernmas also, it is said, found 
the first gold-mine in Ireland, and introduced variegated colours 
into the clothing of the people. A slave might wear but one 
colour, a peasant two, a soldier three, a wealthy landowner four, 

115 Cleena (Cliodhna) was a Danaan princess about whom a legend is told 
connected with the Bay of Glandore in Co. Cork. See p. 127. 

116 Seep. 85. 

124 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

a provincial chief five, and an Ollav, or royal person, six. Ollav 
was a term applied to a certain Druidic rank; it meant much the 
same as "doctor," in the sense of a learned man — a master of 
science. It is a characteristic trait that the Ollav is endowed with 
a distinction equal to that of a king. 

Ollav F51a 

The most distinguished Ollav of Ireland was also a king, the 
celebrated Ollav Fola, who is supposed to have been eighteenth 
from Eremon and to have reigned about 1000 B.C. He was the 
Lycurgus or Solon of Ireland, giving to the country a code of 
legislature, and also subdividing it, under the High King at Tara, 
among the provincial chiefs, to each of whom his proper rights 
and obligations were allotted. To Ollav Fola is also attributed the 
foundation of an institution which, whatever its origin, became of 
great importance in Ireland — the great triennial Fair or Festival 
at Tara, where the sub-kings and chiefs, bards, historians, and 
musicians from all parts of Ireland assembled to make up the 
genealogical records of the clan chieftainships, to enact laws, 
[150] hear disputed cases, settle succession, and so forth; all these 

political and legislative labours being lightened by song and 
feast. It was a stringent law that at this season all enmities 
must be laid aside; no man might lift his hand against another, 
or even institute a legal process, while the Assembly at Tara 
was in progress. Of all political and national institutions of this 
kind Ollav Fola was regarded as the traditional founder, just as 
Goban the Smith was the founder of artistry and handicraft, and 
Amergin of poetry. But whether the Milesian king had any more 
objective reality than the other more obviously mythical figures 
it is hard to say. He is supposed to have been buried in the great 
tumulus at Loughcrew, in Westmeath. 

Kimbay and the Founding of Emain Macha 

With Kimbay (Cimbaoth), about 300 B.C., we come to a 
landmark in history. "All the historical records of the Irish, 
prior to Kimbay, were dubious" — so, with remarkable critical 


acumen for his age, wrote the eleventh-century historian Tierna 
of Clonmacnois. 117 There is much that is dubious in those that 
follow, but we are certainly on firmer historical ground. With the 
reign of Kimbay one great fact emerges into light: we have the 
foundation of the kingdom of Ulster at its centre, Emain Macha, 
a name redolent to the Irish student of legendary splendour 
and heroism. Emain Macha is now represented by the grassy 
ramparts of a great hill-fortress close to Ard Macha (Armagh). 
According to one of the derivations offered in Keating's "History 
of Ireland," Emain is derived from eo, a bodkin, and muin, the 
neck, the word being thus equivalent to "brooch," and Emain [151] 
Macha means the Brooch of Macha. An Irish brooch was a large 
circular wheel of gold or bronze, crossed by a long pin, and the 
great circular rampart surrounding a Celtic fortress might well 
be imaginatively likened to the brooch or a giantess guarding her 
cloak, or territory. 118 The legend of Macha tells that she was the 
daughter of Red Hugh, an Ulster prince who had two brothers, 
Dithorba and Kimbay. They agreed to enjoy, each in turn, the 
sovranty of Ireland. Red Hugh came first, but on his death Macha 
refused to give up the realm and fought Dithorba for it, whom 
she conquered and slew. She then, in equally masterful manner, 
compelled Kimbay to wed her, and ruled all Ireland as queen. I 
give the rest of the tale in the words of Standish O'Grady: 

"The five sons of Dithorba, having been expelled out of Ulster, 
fled across the Shannon, and in the west of the kingdom plotted 
against Macha. Then the Queen went down alone into Connacht 
and found the brothers in the forest, where, wearied with the 
chase, they were cooking a wild boar which they had slain, 
and were carousing before a fire which they had kindled. She 

117 "Omnia monumenta Scotorum ante Cimbaoth incerta erant." Tierna, who 
died in 1088, was Abbot of Clonmacnois, a great monastic and educational 
centre in mediaeval Ireland. 

118 Compare the fine poem of a modern Celtic writer (Sir Samuel Ferguson), 
"The Widow's Cloak" — i.e., the British Empire in the days of Queen Victoria. 

126 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

appeared in her grimmest aspect, as the war-goddess, red all over, 
terrible and hideous as war itself but with bright and flashing 
eyes. One by one the brothers were inflamed by her sinister 
beauty, and one by one she overpowered and bound them. Then 
she lifted her burthen of champions upon her back and returned 
with them into the north. With the spear of her brooch she marked 
out on the plain the circuit of the city of Emain Macha, whose 
[152] ramparts and trenches were constructed by the captive princes, 

labouring like slaves under her command." 

"The underlying idea of all this class of legend," remarks Mr. 
O'Grady , "is that if men cannot master war, war will master them; 
and that those who aspired to the Ard-Rieship [High-Kingship] 
of all Erin must have the war-gods on their side." 119 

Macha is an instance of the intermingling of the attributes of 
the Danaan with the human race of which I have already spoken. 

Laery and Covac 

The next king who comes into legendary prominence is Ugainy 
the Great, who is said to have ruled not only all Ireland, but a 
great part of Western Europe, and to have wedded a Gaulish 
princess named Kesair. He had two sons, Laery and Covac. The 
former inherited the kingdom, but Covac, consumed and sick 
with envy, sought to slay him, and asked the advice of a Druid 
as to how this could be managed, since Laery, justly suspicious, 
never would visit him without an armed escort. The Druid bade 
him feign death, and have word sent to his brother that he was on 
his bier ready for burial. This Covac did, and when Laery arrived 
and bent over the supposed corpse Covac stabbed him to the 
heart, and slew also one of his sons, Ailill, 120 who attended him. 
Then Covac ascended the throne, and straightway his illness left 

Legends of Maon, Son of Ailill 

119 "Critical History of Ireland," p. 180. 

120 Pronounced "El'yill." 


He did a brutal deed, however, upon a son of Ailill's named 
Maon, about whom a number of legends cluster. Maon, as a child, [153] 
was brought into Covac's presence, and was there compelled, says 
Keating, to swallow a portion of his father's and grandfather's 
hearts, and also a mouse with her young. From the disgust he felt, 
the child lost his speech, and seeing him dumb, and therefore 
innocuous, Covac let him go. The boy was then taken into 
Munster, to the kingdom of Feramorc, of which Scoriath was 
king, and remained with him some time, but afterwards went to 
Gaul, his great-grandmother Kesair's country, where his guards 
told the king that he was heir to the throne of Ireland, and he 
was treated with great honour and grew up into a noble youth. 
But he left behind him in the heart of Moriath, daughter of the 
King of Feramorc, a passion that could not be stilled, and she 
resolved to bring him back to Ireland. She accordingly equipped 
her father's harper, Craftiny, with many rich gifts, and wrote for 
him a love-lay, in which her passion for Maon was set forth, 
and to which Craftiny composed an enchanting melody. Arrived 
in France, Craftiny made his way to the king's court, and found 
occasion to pour out his lay to Maon. So deeply stirred was he 
by the beauty and passion of the song that his speech returned to 
him and he broke out into praises of it, and was thenceforth dumb 
no more. The King of Gaul then equipped him with an armed 
force and sent him to Ireland to regain his kingdom. Learning 
that Covac was at a place near at hand named Dinrigh, Maon 
and his body of Gauls made a sudden attack upon him and slew 
him there and then, with all his nobles and guards. After the 
slaughter a Druid of Covac's company asked one of the Gauls 
who their leader was. "The Mariner" (Loingseach), replied the 
Gaul, meaning the captain of the fleet — i.e., Maon. "Can he 
speak?" inquired the Druid, who had begun to suspect the truth. 
"He does speak" (Labraidh), said the man; and henceforth the [154] 
name "Labra the Mariner" clung to Maon son of Ailill, nor was 
he known by any other. He then sought out Moriath, wedded her, 

128 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

and reigned over Ireland ten years. 

From this invasion of the Gauls the name of the province of 
Leinster is traditionally derived. They were armed with spears 
having broad blue-green iron heads called laighne (pronounced 
"lyna"), and as they were allotted lands in Leinster and settled 
there, the province was called in Irish Laighin ("Ly-in") after 
them — the Province of the Spearmen. 121 

Of Labra the Mariner, after his accession, a curious tale is 
told. He was accustomed, it is said, to have his hair cropped but 
once a year, and the man to do this was chosen by lot, and was 
immediately afterwards put to death. The reason of this was that, 
like King Midas in the similar Greek myth, he had long ears like 
those of a horse, and he would not have this deformity known. 
Once it fell, however, that the person chosen to crop his hair 
was the only son of a poor widow, by whose tears and entreaties 
the king was prevailed upon to let him live, on condition that he 
swore by the Wind and Sun to tell no man what he might see. 
The oath was taken, and the young man returned to his mother. 
But by-and-by the secret so preyed on his mind that he fell into 
a sore sickness, and was near to death, when a wise Druid was 
[155] called in to heal him. "It is the secret that is killing him," said 

the Druid, "and he will never be well till he reveals it. Let him 
therefore go along the high-road till he come to a place where 
four roads meet. Let him there turn to the right, and the first tree 
he shall meet on the road, let him tell his secret to that, and he 
shall be rid of it, and recover." So the youth did; and the first 
tree was a willow. He laid his lips close to the bark, whispered 
his secret to it, and went home, light-hearted as of old. But it 

121 The ending ster in three of the names of the Irish provinces is of Norse 
origin, and is a relic of the Viking conquests in Ireland. Connacht, where the 
Vikings did not penetrate, alone preserves its Irish name unmodified. Ulster 
(in Irish Ulaidh) is supposed to derive its name from Ollav Fola, Munster 
(Mumhan) from King Eocho Mumho, tenth in succession from Eremon, and 
Connacht was "the land of the children of Conn" — he who was called Conn of 
the Hundred Battles, and who died A.D. 157. 


chanced that shortly after this the harper Craftiny broke his harp 
and needed a new one, and as luck would have it the first suitable 
tree he came to was the willow that had the king's secret. He 
cut it down, made his harp from it, and performed that night as 
usual in the king's hall; when, to the amazement of all, as soon as 
the harper touched the strings the assembled guests heard them 
chime the words, "Two horse's ears hath Labra the Mariner." The 
king then, seeing that the secret was out, plucked off his hood 
and showed himself plainly; nor was any man put to death again 
on account of this mystery. We have seen that the compelling 
power of Craftiny's music had formerly cured Labra's dumbness. 
The sense of something magical in music, as though supernatural 
powers spoke through it, is of constant recurrence in Irish legend. 

Legend-Cycle of Conary M5r 

We now come to a cycle of legends centering on, or rather 
closing with, the wonderful figure of the High King Conary 
M5r — a cycle so charged with splendour, mystery, and romance 
that to do it justice would require far more space than can be 
given to it within the limits of this work. 122 [156] 

Etain in Fairyland 

The preliminary events of the cycle are transacted in the "Land 
of Youth," the mystic country of the People of Dana after their 
dispossession by the Children of Miled. Midir the Proud son of 
the Dagda, a Danaan prince dwelling on Slieve Callary, had a 
wife named Fuamnach. After a while he took to himself another 
bride, Etain, whose beauty and grace were beyond compare, so 
that "as fair as Etain" became a proverbial comparison for any 
beauty that exceeded all other standards. Fuamnach therefore 
became jealous of her rival, and having by magic art changed 

122 The reader may, however, be referred to the tale of Etain and Midir as 
given in full by A.H. Leahy ("Heroic Romances of Ireland"), and by the writer 
in his "High Deeds of Finn," and to the tale of Conary rendered by Sir S. 
Ferguson ("Poems," 1886), in what Dr. Whitley Stokes has described as the 
noblest poem ever written by an Irishman. 

130 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

her into a butterfly, she raised a tempest that drove her forth 
from the palace, and kept her for seven years buffeted hither 
and thither throughout the length and breadth of Erin. At last, 
however, a chance gust of wind blew her through a window of 
the fairy palace of Angus on the Boyne. The immortals cannot be 
hidden from each other, and Angus knew what she was. Unable 
to release her altogether from the spell of Fuamnach, he made a 
sunny bower for her, and planted round it all manner of choice 
and honey-laden flowers, on which she lived as long as she was 
with him, while in the secrecy of the night he restored her to her 
own form and enjoyed her love. In time, however, her refuge was 
discovered by Fuamnach; again the magic tempest descended 
upon her and drove her forth; and this time a singular fate was 
hers. Blown into the palace of an Ulster chieftain named Etar, 
she fell into the drinking-cup of Etar's wife just as the latter was 
about to drink. She was swallowed in the draught, and in due 
[157] time, having passed into the womb of Etar's wife, she was born as 

an apparently mortal child, and grew up to maidenhood knowing 
nothing of her real nature and ancestry. 

Eochy and Etain 

About this time it happened that the High King of Ireland, 
Eochy, 123 being wifeless and urged by the nobles of his land to 
take a queen — "for without thou do so," they said, "we will not 
bring our wives to the Assembly at Tara" — sent forth to inquire 
for a fair and noble maiden to share his throne. The messengers 
report that Etain, daughter of Etar, is the fairest maiden in 
Ireland, and the king journeys forth to visit her. A piece of 
description here follows which is one of the most highly wrought 
and splendid in Celtic or perhaps in any literature. Eochy finds 
Etain with her maidens by a spring of water, whither she had 
gone forth to wash her hair: 

"A clear comb of silver was held in her hand, the comb was 


adorned with gold; and near her, as for washing, was a bason of 
silver whereon four birds had been chased, and there were little 
bright gems of carbuncles on the rims of the bason. A bright 
purple mantle waved round her; and beneath it was another 
mantle ornamented with silver fringes: the outer mantle was 
clasped over her bosom with a golden brooch. A tunic she wore 
with a long hood that might cover her head attached to it; it was 
stiff and glossy with green silk beneath red embroidery of gold, 
and was clasped over her breasts with marvellously wrought 
clasps of silver and gold; so that men saw the bright gold and 
the green silk flashing against the sun. On her head were two 
tresses of golden hair, and each tress had been plaited into four [158] 
strands; at the end of each strand was a little ball of gold. And 
there was that maiden undoing her hair that she might wash it, 
her two arms out through the armholes of her smock. Each of her 
two arms was as white as the snow of a single night, and each 
of her cheeks was as rosy as the foxglove. Even and small were 
the teeth in her head, and they shone like pearls. Her eyes were 
as blue as a hyacinth, her lips delicate and crimson; very high, 
soft and white were her shoulders. Tender, polished and white 
were her wrists; her fingers long and of great whiteness; her nails 
were beautiful and pink. White as snow, or the foam of a wave, 
was her neck; long was it, slender, and as soft as silk. Smooth 
and white were her thighs; her knees were round and firm and 
white; her ankles were as straight as the rule of a carpenter. Her 
feet were slim and as white as the ocean's foam; evenly set were 
her eyes; her eyebrows were of a bluish black, such as you see 
upon the shell of a beetle. Never a maid fairer than she, or more 
worthy of love, was till then seen by the eyes of men; and it 
seemed to them that she must be one of those that have come 
from the fairy mounds." 124 

124 I quote Mr. A.H. Leahy's translation from a fifteenth-century Egerton 
manuscript ("Heroic Romances of Ireland," vol. i. p. 12). The story is, 
however, found in much more ancient authorities. 

132 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The king wooed her and made her his wife, and brought her 
back to Tara. 

The Love-Story of Ailill 

It happened that the king had a brother named Ailill, who, on 
seeing Etain, was so smitten with her beauty that he fell sick of 
the intensity of his passion and wasted almost to death. While 
he was in this condition Eochy had to make a royal progress 
[159] through Ireland. He left his brother — the cause of whose malady 

none suspected — in Etain's care, bidding her do what she could 
for him, and, if he died, to bury him with due ceremonies and 
erect an Ogham stone above his grave. 125 Etain goes to visit the 
brother; she inquires the cause of his illness; he speaks to her in 
enigmas, but at last, moved beyond control by her tenderness, 
he breaks out in an avowal of his passion. His description of the 
yearning of hopeless love is a lyric of extraordinary intensity. "It 
is closer than the skin," he cries, "it is like a battle with a spectre, 
it overwhelms like a flood, it is a weapon under the sea, it is 
a passion for an echo." By "a weapon under the sea" the poet 
means that love is like one of the secret treasures of the fairy-folk 
in the kingdom of Mananan — as wonderful and as unattainable. 

Etain is now in some perplexity; but she decides, with a kind 
of naive good-nature, that although she is not in the least in 
love with Ailill, she cannot see a man die of longing for her, 
and she promises to be his. Possibly we are to understand here 
that she was prompted by the fairy nature, ignorant of good and 
evil, and alive only to pleasure and to suffering. It must be said, 
however, that in the Irish myths in general this, as we may call 
it, "fairy" view of morality is the one generally prevalent both 
among Danaans and mortals — both alike strike one as morally 

125 Ogham letters, which were composed of straight lines arranged in a certain 
order about the axis formed by the edge of a squared pillar-stone, were used 
for sepulchral inscription and writing generally before the introduction of the 
Roman alphabet in Ireland. 


Etain now arranges a tryst with Ailill in a house outside of 
Tara — for she will not do what she calls her "glorious crime" in 
the king's palace. But Ailill on the eve of the appointed day falls 
into a profound slumber and misses his appointment. A being [160] 
in his shape does, however, come to Etain, but merely to speak 
coldly and sorrowfully of his malady, and departs again. When 
the two meet once more the situation is altogether changed. In 
Ailill's enchanted sleep his unholy passion for the queen has 
passed entirely away. Etain, on the other hand, becomes aware 
that behind the visible events there are mysteries which she does 
not understand. 

Midir the Proud 

The explanation soon follows. The being who came to her in 
the shape of Ailill was her Danaan husband, Midir the Proud. 
He now comes to woo her in his true shape, beautiful and 
nobly apparelled, and entreats her to fly with him to the Land of 
Youth, where she can be safe henceforward, since her persecutor, 
Fuamnach, is dead. He it was who shed upon Ailill's eyes the 
magic slumber. His description of the fairyland to which he 
invites her is given in verses of great beauty: 

The Land of Youth 

"O fair-haired woman, will you come with me to the marvellous 

land, full of music, where the hair is 

primrose-yellow and the body white as snow? 
There none speaks of 'mine' or 'thine' — white are the teeth and 

black the brows; eyes flash with many-coloured 

lights, and the hue of the foxglove is on every 

Pleasant to the eye are the plains of Erin, but they are a desert to 

the Great Plain. 
Heady is the ale of Erin, but the ale of the Great Plain is headier. 
It is one of the wonders of that land that youth does not change 

into age. 

134 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Smooth and sweet are the streams that flow through it; mead 
[161] and wine abound of every kind; there men are all 

fair, without blemish; there women conceive 

without sin. 
We see around us on every side, yet no man seeth us; the cloud 

of the sin of Adam hides us from their 

"O lady, if thou wilt come to my strong people, the purest of 

gold shall be on thy head — thy meat shall be 

swine's flesh unsalted, 126 new milk and mead 

shall thou drink with me there, O fair-haired 


I have given this remarkable lyric at length because, though 
Christian and ascetic ideas are obviously discernible in it, it 
represents on the whole the pagan and mythical conception of 
the Land of Youth, the country of the Dead. 

Etain, however, is by no means ready to go away with a 
stranger and to desert the High King for a man "without name 
or lineage." Midir tells her who he is, and all her own history 
of which, in her present incarnation, she knows nothing; and 
he adds that it was one thousand and twelve years from Etain's 
birth in the Land of Youth till she was born a mortal child to 
the wife of Etar. Ultimately Etain agrees to return with Midir to 
her ancient home, but only on condition that the king will agree 
to their severance, and with this Midir has to be content for the 

A Game of Chess 

Shortly afterwards he appears to King Eochy, as already 
related, 127 on the Hill of Tara. He tells the king that he has come 
to play a game of chess with him, and produces a chessboard 

126 The reference is to the magic swine of Mananan, which were killed and 
eaten afresh every day, and whose meat preserved the eternal youth of the 
People of Dana. 

127 Seep. 124. 


of silver with pieces of gold studded with jewels. To be a 
skilful chess-player was a necessary accomplishment of kings 
and nobles in Ireland, and Eochy enters into the game with zest. [162] 
Midir allows him to win game after game, and in payment for 
his losses he performs by magic all kinds of tasks for Eochy, 
reclaiming land, clearing forests, and building causeways across 
bogs — here we have a touch of the popular conception of the 
Danaans as earth deities associated with agriculture and fertility. 
At last, having excited Eochy's cupidity and made him believe 
himself the better player, he proposes a final game, the stakes to 
be at the pleasure of the victor after the game is over. Eochy is 
now defeated. 

"My stake is forfeit to thee," said Eochy. 

"Had I wished it, it had been forfeit long ago," said Midir. 

"What is it that thou desirest me to grant?" said Eochy. 

"That I may hold Etain in my arms and obtain a kiss from 
her," said Midir. 

The king was silent for a while; then he said: "One month 
from to-day thou shalt come, and the thing thou desirest shall be 
granted thee." 

Midir and Etain 

Eochy's mind foreboded evil, and when the appointed day 
came he caused the palace of Tara to be surrounded by a great 
host of armed men to keep Midir out. All was in vain, however; 
as the king sat at the feast, while Etain handed round the wine, 
Midir, more glorious than ever, suddenly stood in their midst. 
Holding his spears in his left hand, he threw his right around 
Etain, and the couple rose lightly in the air and disappeared 
through a roof-window in the palace. Angry and bewildered, the 
king and his warriors rushed out of doors, but all they could see 
was two white swans that circled in the air above the palace, and 
then departed in long, steady flight towards the fairy mountain [163] 
of Slievenamon. And thus Queen Etain rejoined her kindred. 

War with Fairyland 

136 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Eochy, however, would not accept defeat, and now ensues 
what I think is the earliest recorded war with Fairyland since the 
first dispossession of the Danaans. After searching Ireland for 
his wife in vain, he summoned to his aid the Druid Dalan. Dalan 
tried for a year by every means in his power to find out where she 
was. At last he made what seems to have been an operation of 
wizardry of special strength — "he made three wands of yew, and 
upon the wands he wrote an ogham; and by the keys of wisdom 
that he had, and by the ogham, it was revealed to him that Etain 
was in the fairy mound of Bri-Leith, and that Midir had borne 
her thither." 

Eochy then assembled his forces to storm and destroy the fairy 
mound in which was the palace of Midir. It is said that he was 
nine years digging up one mound after another, while Midir and 
his folk repaired the devastation as fast as it was made. At last 
Midir, driven to the last stronghold, attempted a stratagem — he 
offered to give up Etain, and sent her with fifty handmaids to 
the king, but made them all so much alike that Eochy could not 
distinguish the true Etain from her images. She herself, it is said, 
gave him a sign by which to know her. The motive of the tale, 
including the choice of the mortal rather than the god, reminds 
one of the beautiful Hindu legend of Damayanti and Nala. Eochy 
regained his queen, who lived with him till his death, ten years 
afterwards, and bore him one daughter, who was named Etain, 
[164] like herself. 

The Tale of Conary M5r 

From this Etain ultimately sprang the great king Conary Mdr, 
who shines in Irish legend as the supreme type of royal splendour, 
power, and beneficence, and whose overthrow and death were 
compassed by the Danaans in vengeance for the devastation of 
their sacred dwellings by Eochy. The tale in which the death 
of Conary is related is one of the most antique and barbaric 
in conception of all Irish legends, but it has a magnificence of 
imagination which no other can rival. To this great story the tale 


of Etain and Midir may be regarded as what the Irish called a 
priomscel, "introductory tale," showing the more remote origin 
of the events related. The genealogy of Conary M5r will help the 
reader to understand the connexion of events. 


Cormac, King=Etain Oig (Etain the younger), 
of Ulster. 

Eterskel, King=Messbuachalla (the cowherd's fosterling), 
of Erin. 

Conary Mdr. 
The Law of the Geis 

The tale of Conary introduces us for the first time to the 
law or institution of the geis, which plays henceforward a very 
important part in Irish legend, the violation or observance of a 
geis being frequently the turning-point in a tragic narrative. We 
must therefore delay a moment to explain to the reader exactly 
what this peculiar institution was. 

Dineen's "Irish Dictionary" explains the word geis 
(pronounced "gaysh" — plural, "gaysha") as meaning "a bond, [165] 
a spell, a prohibition, a taboo, a magical injunction, the violation 
of which led to misfortune and death." 128 Every Irish chieftain 
or personage of note had certain geise peculiar to himself which 
he must not transgress. These geise had sometimes reference 
to a code of chivalry — thus Dermot of the Love-spot, when 
appealed to by Grania to take her away from Finn, is under geise 
not to refuse protection to a woman. Or they may be merely 
superstitious or fantastic — thus Conary, as one of his geise, is 
forbidden to follow three red horsemen on a road, nor must 

128 The meaning quoted will be found in the Dictionary under the alternative 
form geas 

138 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

he kill birds (this is because, as we shall see, his totem was 
a bird). It is a geis to the Ulster champion, Fergus mac Roy, 
that he must not refuse an invitation to a feast; on this turns the 
Tragedy of the Sons of Usnach. It is not at all clear who imposed 
these geise or how any one found out what his personal geise 
were — all that was doubtless an affair of the Druids. But they 
were regarded as sacred obligations, and the worst misfortunes 
were to be apprehended from breaking them. Originally, no 
doubt, they were regarded as a means of keeping oneself in 
proper relations with the other world — the world of Faery — and 
were akin to the well-known Polynesian practice of the "tabu." I 
prefer, however, to retain the Irish word as the only fitting one 
for the Irish practice. 

The Cowherd's Fosterling 

We now return to follow the fortunes of Etain's great-grandson, 
Conary. Her daughter, Etain Oig, as we have seen from the 
genealogical table, married Cormac, King of Ulster. She bore 
her husband no children save one daughter only. Embittered 
[166] by her barrenness and his want of an heir, the king put away 

Etain, and ordered her infant to be abandoned and thrown into 
a pit. "Then his two thralls take her to a pit, and she smiles a 
laughing smile at them as they were putting her into it." 129 After 
that they cannot leave her to die, and they carry her to a cowherd 
of Eterskel, King of Tara, by whom she is fostered and taught 
"till she became a good embroidress and there was not in Ireland 
a king's daughter dearer than she." Hence the name she bore, 
Messbuachalla ("Messboo'hala"), which means "the cowherd's 

For fear of her being discovered, the cowherds keep the maiden 
in a house of wickerwork having only a roof-opening. But one 
of King Eterskel's folk has the curiosity to climb up and look in, 
and sees there the fairest maiden in Ireland. He bears word to 

129 I quote from Whitley Stokes' translation, Revue Celtique, January 1901, 
and succeeding numbers. 


the king, who orders an opening to be made in the wall and the 
maiden fetched forth, for the king was childless, and it had been 
prophesied to him by his Druid that a woman of unknown race 
would bear him a son. Then said the king: "This is the woman 
that has been prophesied to me." 

Parentage and Birth of Conary 

Before her release, however, she is visited by a denizen from 
the Land of Youth. A great bird comes down through her roof- 
window. On the floor of the hut his bird-plumage falls from him 
and reveals a glorious youth. Like Danae, like Leda, like Ethlinn 
daughter of Balor, she gives her love to the god. Ere they part he 
tells her that she will be taken to the king, but that she will bear 
to her Danaan lover a son whose name shall be Conary, and that [167] 
it shall be forbidden to him to go a-hunting after birds. 

So Conary was born, and grew up into a wise and noble 
youth, and he was fostered with a lord named Desa, whose three 
great-grandsons grew up with him from childhood. Their names 
were Ferlee and Fergar and Ferrogan; and Conary, it is said, 
loved them well and taught them his wisdom. 

Conary the High King 

Then King Eterskel died, and a successor had to be appointed. 
In Ireland the eldest son did not succeed to the throne or 
chieftaincy as a matter of right, but the ablest and best of the 
family at the time was supposed to be selected by the clan. In 
this tale we have a curious account of this selection by means 
of divination. A "bull-feast" was held — i.e., a bull was slain, 
and the diviner would "eat his fill and drink its broth"; then he 
went to bed, where a truth-compelling spell was chanted over 
him. Whoever he saw in his dream would be king. So at iEgira, 
in Achsea, as Whitley Stokes points out, the priestess of Earth 
drank the fresh blood of a bull before descending into the cave 
to prophesy. The dreamer cried in his sleep that he saw a naked 
man going towards Tara with a stone in his sling. 

The bull-feast was held at Tara, but Conary was then with 

140 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

his three foster-brothers playing a game on the Plains of Liffey. 
They separated, Conary going towards Dublin, where he saw 
before him a flock of great birds, wonderful in colour and beauty. 
He drove after them in his chariot, but the birds would go a 
spear-cast in front and light, and fly on again, never letting him 
come up with them till they reached the sea-shore. Then he 
lighted down from his chariot and took out his sling to cast at 
[168] them, whereupon they changed into armed men and turned on 

him with spears and swords. One of them, however, protected 
him, and said: "I am Nemglan, king of thy father's birds; and 
thou hast been forbidden to cast at birds, for here there is no one 
but is thy kin." "Till to-day," said Conary, "I knew not this." 

"Go to Tara to-night," said Nemglan; "the bull-feast is there, 
and through it thou shalt be made king. A man stark naked, who 
shall go at the end of the night along one of the roads to Tara, 
having a stone and a sling — 'tis he that shall be king." 

So Conary stripped off his raiment and went naked through the 
night to Tara, where all the roads were being watched by chiefs 
having changes of royal raiment with them to clothe the man who 
should come according to the prophecy. When Conary meets 
them they clothe him and bring him in, and he is proclaimed 
King of Erin. 

Conary's Geise 

A long list of his geise is here given, which are said to have 
been declared to him by Nemglan. "The bird-reign shall be 
noble," said he, "and these shall be thy geise: 

"Thou shalt not go right-handwise round Tara, nor 
left-handwise round Bregia, 130 
Thou shalt not hunt the evil-beasts of Cerna, 
Thou shalt not go out every ninth night beyond Tara. 

130 Bregia was the great plain lying eastwards of Tara between Boyne and 


Thou shalt not sleep in a house from which firelight shows 

after sunset, or in which light can be seen from 

No three Reds shall go before thee to the house of Red. 

No rapine shall be wrought in thy reign. [169] 

After sunset, no one woman alone or man alone shall enter the 
house in which thou art. 

Thou shalt not interfere in a quarrel between two of thy thralls." 

Conary then entered upon his reign, which was marked by 
the fair seasons and bounteous harvests always associated in the 
Irish mind with the reign of a good king. Foreign ships came 
to the ports. Oak-mast for the swine was up to the knees every 
autumn; the rivers swarmed with fish. "No one slew another 
in Erin during his reign, and to every one in Erin his fellow's 
voice seemed as sweet as the strings of lutes. From mid-spring 
to mid-autumn no wind disturbed a cow's tail." 

Beginning of the Vengeance 

Disturbance, however, came from another source. Conary had 
put down all raiding and rapine, and his three foster-brothers, 
who were born reavers, took it ill. They pursued their evil 
ways in pride and wilfulness, and were at last captured red- 
handed. Conary would not condemn them to death, as the people 
begged him to do, but spared them for the sake of his kinship in 
fosterage. They were, however, banished from Erin and bidden 
to go raiding overseas, if raid they must. On the seas they met 
another exiled chief, Ingcel the One-Eyed, son of the King of 
Britain, and joining forces with him they attacked the fortress 
in which Ingcel's father, mother, and brothers were guests at 
the time, and all were destroyed in a single night. It was then 
the turn of Ingcel to ask their help in raiding the land of Erin, 
and gathering a host of other outlawed men, including the seven 
Manes, sons of Ailell and Maev of Connacht, besides Ferlee, 
Fergar, and Ferrogan, they made a descent upon Ireland, taking 
land on the Dublin coast near Howth. [170] 

142 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Meantime Conary had been lured by the machinations of the 
Danaans into breaking one after another of his geise. He settles a 
quarrel between two of his serfs in Munster, and travelling back 
to Tara they see the country around it lit with the glare of fires and 
wrapped in clouds of smoke. A host from the North, they think, 
must be raiding the country, and to escape it Conary's company 
have to turn right-handwise round Tara and then left-handwise 
round the Plain of Bregia. But the smoke and flames were an 
illusion made by the Fairy Folk, who are now drawing the toils 
closer round the doomed king. On his way past Bregia he chases 
"the evil beasts of Cerna" — whatever they were — "but he saw it 
not till the chase was ended." 

Da Derga's Hostel and the Three Reds 

Conary had now to find a resting-place for the night, and he 
recollects that he is not far from the Hostel of the Leinster lord, 
Da Derga, which gives its name to this bardic tale. 131 Conary 
had been generous to him when Da Derga came visiting to Tara, 
and he determined to seek his hospitality for the night. Da 
Derga dwelt in a vast hall with seven doors near to the present 
town of Dublin, probably at Donnybrook, on the high-road to 
the south. As the cavalcade are journeying thither an ominous 
incident occurs — Conary marks in front of them on the road three 
horsemen clad all in red and riding on red horses. He remembers 
his geis about the "three Reds," and sends a messenger forward 
to bid them fall behind. But however the messenger lashes his 
horse he fails to get nearer than the length of a spear-cast to the 
three Red Riders. He shouts to them to turn back and follow 
the king, but one of them, looking over his shoulder, bids him 
[171] ironically look out for "great news from a Hostel." Again and 

again the messenger is sent to them with promises of great reward 
if they will fall behind instead of preceding Conary. At last one 
of them chants a mystic and terrible strain. "Lo, my son, great 

131 "The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel/ 


the news. Weary are the steeds we ride — the steeds from the 
fairy mounds. Though we are living, we are dead. Great are 
the signs: destruction of life; sating of ravens; feeding of crows; 
strife of slaughter; wetting of sword-edge; shields with broken 
bosses after sundown. Lo, my son!" Then they ride forward, 
and, alighting from their red steeds, fasten them at the portal 
of Da Derga's Hostel and sit down inside. "Derga," it may be 
explained, means "red." Conary had therefore been preceded by 
three red horsemen to the House of Red. "All my geise," he 
remarks forebodingly, "have seized me to-night." 

Gathering of the Hosts 

From this point the story of Conary Mdr takes on a character of 
supernatural vastness and mystery, the imagination of the bardic 
narrator dilating, as it were, with the approach of the crisis. 
Night has fallen, and the pirate host of Ingcel is encamped on the 
shores of Dublin Bay. They hear the noise of the royal cavalcade, 
and a long-sighted messenger is sent out to discover what it is. 
He brings back word of the glittering and multitudinous host 
which has followed Conary to the Hostel. A crashing noise is 
heard — Ingcel asks of Ferrogan what it may be — it is the giant 
warrior mac Cecht striking flint on steel to kindle fire for the 
king's feast. "God send that Conary be not there to-night," cry 
the sons of Desa; "woe that he should be under the hurt of his 
foes." But Ingcel reminds them of their compact — he had given 
them the plundering of his own father and brethren; they cannot 
refuse to stand by him in the attack he meditates on Conary in the [172] 
Hostel. A glare of the fire lit by mac Cecht is now perceived by 
the pirate host, shining through the wheels of the chariots which 
are drawn up around the open doors of the Hostel. Another of 
the geise of Conary has been broken. 

Ingcel and his host now proceed to build a great cairn of 
stones, each man contributing one stone, so that there may be 
a memorial of the fight, and also a record of the number slain 
when each survivor removes his stone again. 

144 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The Morrigan 

The scene now shifts to the Hostel, where the king's party has 
arrived and is preparing for the night. A solitary woman comes 
to the door and seeks admission. "As long as a weaver's beam 
were each of her two shins, and they were as dark as the back of a 
stag-beetle. A greyish, woolly mantle she wore. Her hair reached 
to her knee. Her mouth was twisted to one side of her head." It 
was the Morrigan, the Danaan goddess of Death and Destruction. 
She leant against the doorpost of the house and looked evilly on 
the king and his company. "Well, O woman," said Conary, "if 
thou art a witch, what seest thou for us?" "Truly I see for thee," 
she answered, "that neither fell nor flesh of thine shall escape 
from the place into which thou hast come, save what birds will 
bear away in their claws." She asks admission. Conary declares 
that his geis forbids him to receive a solitary man or woman after 
sunset. "If in sooth," she says, "it has befallen the king not to 
have room in his house for the meal and bed of a solitary woman, 
they will be gotten apart from him from some one possessing 
generosity." "Let her in, then," says Conary, "though it is a geis 
[173] of mine." 

Conary and his Retinue 

A lengthy and brilliant passage now follows describing how 
Ingcel goes to spy out the state of affairs in the Hostel. Peeping 
through the chariot-wheels, he takes note of all he sees, and 
describes to the sons of Desa the appearance and equipment of 
each prince and mighty man in Conary's retinue, while Ferrogan 
and his brother declare who he is and what destruction he will 
work in the coming fight. There is Cormac, son of Conor, 
King of Ulster, the fair and good; there are three huge, black 
and black-robed warriors of the Picts; there is Conary's steward, 
with bristling hair, who settles every dispute — a needle would 
be heard falling when he raises his voice to speak, and he bears 
a staff of office the size of a mill-shaft; there is the warrior mac 
Cecht, who lies supine with his knees drawn up — they resemble 


two bare hills, his eyes are like lakes, his nose a mountain-peak, 
his sword shines like a river in the sun. Conary's three sons are 
there, golden-haired, silk-robed, beloved of all the household, 
with "manners of ripe maidens, and hearts of brothers, and valour 
of bears." When Ferrogan hears of them he weeps and cannot 
proceed till hours of the night have passed. Three Fomorian 
hostages of horrible aspect are there also; and Conall of the 
Victories with his blood-red shield; and Duftach of Ulster with 
his magic spear, which, when there is a premonition of battle, 
must be kept in a brew of soporific herbs, or it will flame 
on its haft and fly forth raging for massacre; and three giants 
from the Isle of Man with horses' manes reaching to their heels. 
A strange and unearthly touch is introduced by a description 
of three naked and bleeding forms hanging by ropes from the 
roof — they are the daughters of the Bav, another name for the [174] 
Morrigan, or war-goddess, "three of awful boding," says the 
tale enigmatically, "those are the three that are slaughtered at 
every time." We are probably to regard them as visionary beings, 
portending war and death, visible only to Ingcel. The hall with 
its separate chambers is full of warriors, cup-bearers, musicians 
playing, and jugglers doing wonderful feats; and Da Derga with 
his attendants dispensing food and drink. Conary himself is 
described as a youth; "the ardour and energy of a king has he 
and the counsel of a sage; the mantle I saw round him is even as 
the mist of May-day — lovelier in each hue of it than the other." 
His golden-hilted sword lies beside him — a forearm's length of 
it has escaped from the scabbard, shining like a beam of light. 
"He is the mildest and gentlest and most perfect king that has 
come into the world, even Conary son of Eterskel ... great is 
the tenderness of the sleepy, simple man till he has chanced on 
a deed of valour. But if his fury and his courage are awakened 
when the champions of Erin and Alba are at him in the house, 
the Destruction will not be wrought so long as he is therein ... 
sad were the quenching of that reign." 

146 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Champions at the House 

Ingcel and the sons of Desa then march to the attack and 
surround the Hostel: 

"Silence a while!" says Conary, "what is this?" 

"Champions at the house," says Conall of the Victories. 

"There are warriors for them here," answers Conary. 

"They will be needed to-night," Conall rejoins. 

One of Desa's sons rushes first into the Hostel. His head 
is struck off and cast out of it again. Then the great struggle 
[175] begins. The Hostel is set on fire, but the fire is quenched with 

wine or any liquids that are in it. Conary and his people sally 
forth — hundreds are slain, and the reavers, for the moment, are 
routed. But Conary, who has done prodigies of fighting, is athirst 
and can do no more till he gets water. The reavers by advice 
of their wizards have cut off the river Dodder, which flowed 
through the Hostel, and all the liquids in the house had been spilt 
on the fires. 

Death of Conary 

The king, who is perishing of thirst, asks mac Cecht to procure 
him a drink, and mac Cecht turns to Conall and asks him whether 
he will get the drink for the king or stay to protect him while mac 
Cecht does it. "Leave the defence of the king to us," says Conall, 
"and go thou to seek the drink, for of thee it is demanded." Mac 
Cecht then, taking Conary's golden cup, rushes forth, bursting 
through the surrounding host, and goes to seek for water. Then 
Conall, and Cormac of Ulster, and the other champions, issue 
forth in turn, slaying multitudes of the enemy; some return 
wounded and weary to the little band in the Hostel, while others 
cut their way through the ring of foes. Conall, Sencha, and 
Duftach stand by Conary till the end; but mac Cecht is long in 
returning, Conary perishes of thirst, and the three heroes then 
fight their way out and escape, "wounded, broken, and maimed." 

Meantime mac Cecht has rushed over Ireland in frantic search 
for the water. But the Fairy Folk, who are here manifestly 


elemental powers controlling the forces of nature, have sealed all 
the sources against him. He tries the Well of Kesair in Wicklow 
in vain; he goes to the great rivers, Shannon and Slayney, Bann 
and Barrow — they all hide away at his approach; the lakes deny [176] 
him also; at last he finds a lake, Loch Gara in Roscommon, 
which failed to hide itself in time, and thereat he fills his cup. 
In the morning he returned to the Hostel with the precious and 
hard-won draught, but found the defenders all dead or fled, and 
two of the reavers in the act of striking off the head of Conary. 
Mac Cecht struck off the head of one of them, and hurled a huge 
pillar stone after the other, who was escaping with Conary's head. 
The reaver fell dead on the spot, and mac Cecht, taking up his 
master's head, poured the water into its mouth. Thereupon the 
head spoke, and praised and thanked him for the deed. 

Mac Cecht' s Wound 

A woman then came by and saw mac Cecht lying exhausted 
and wounded on the field. 

"Come hither, O woman," says mac Cecht. 

"I dare not go there," says the woman, "for horror and fear of 

But he persuades her to come, and says: "I know not whether 
it is a fly or gnat or an ant that nips me in the wound." 

The woman looked and saw a hairy wolf buried as far as the 
two shoulders in the wound. She seized it by the tail and dragged 
it forth, and it took "the full of its jaws out of him." 

"Truly," says the woman, "this is an ant of the Ancient Land." 

And mac Cecht took it by the throat and smote it on the 
forehead, so that it died. 

"Is thy Lord Alive?" 

The tale ends in a truly heroic strain. Conall of the Victories, 
as we have seen, had cut his way out after the king's death, and 
made his way to Teltin, where he found his father, Amorgin, in [177] 
the garth before his dun. Conall's shield-arm had been wounded 


148 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

by thrice fifty spears, and he reached Teltin now with half a 
shield, and his sword, and the fragments of his two spears. 

"Swift are the wolves that have hunted thee, my son," said his 

"Tis this that has wounded us, old hero, an evil conflict with 
warriors," Conall replied. 

"Is thy lord alive?" asked Amorgin. 

"He is not alive," says Conall. 

"I swear to God what the great tribes of Ulster swear: he is a 
coward who goes out of a fight alive having left his lord with his 
foes in death." 

"My wounds are not white, old hero," says Conall. He showed 
him his shield-arm, whereon were thrice fifty spear-wounds. The 
sword-arm, which the shield had not guarded, was mangled and 
maimed and wounded and pierced, save that the sinews kept it 
to the body without separation. 

"That arm fought to-night, my son," says Amorgin. 

"True is that, old hero," says Conall of the Victories. "Many 
are they to whom it gave drinks of death to-night in front of the 

So ends the story of Etain, and of the overthrow of Fairyland 
and the fairy vengeance wrought on the great-grandson of Eochy 
the High King. 



The Curse of Macha 

The centre of interest in Irish legend now shifts from Tara to 
Ulster, and a multitude of heroic tales gather round the Ulster 
king Conor mac Nessa, round Cuchulain, 132 his great vassal, and 
the Red Branch Order of chivalry, which had its seat in Emain 

The legend of the foundation of Emain Macha has already been 
told. 133 But Macha, who was no mere woman, but a supernatural 
being, appears again in connexion with the history of Ulster in a 
very curious tale which was supposed to account for the strange 
debility or helplessness that at critical moments sometimes fell, 
it was believed, upon the warriors of the province. 

The legend tells that a wealthy Ulster farmer named Crundchu, 
son of Agnoman, dwelling in a solitary place among the hills, 
found one day in his dun a young woman of great beauty and 
in splendid array, whom he had never seen before. Crundchu, 
we are told, was a widower, his wife having died after bearing 
him four sons. The strange woman, without a word, set herself 
to do the houshold tasks, prepared dinner, milked the cow, and 
took on herself all the duties of the mistress of the household. At 
night she lay down at Crundchu's side, and thereafter dwelt with 
him as his wife; and they loved each other dearly. Her name was 

One day Crundchu prepared himself to go to a great fair or 
assembly of the Ultonians, where there would be feasting and 
horse-racing, tournaments and music, and merrymaking of all 
kinds. Macha begged her husband not to go. He persisted. [179] 
"Then," she said, "at least do not speak of me in the assembly, 
for I may dwell with you only so long as I am not spoken of." 

It has been observed that we have here the earliest appearance 
in post-classical European literature of the well-known motive 
of the fairy bride who can stay with her mortal lover only so long 

133 See p. 150. 

150 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

as certain conditions are observed, such as that he shall not spy 
upon her, ill-treat her, or ask of her origin. 

Crundchu promised to obey the injunction, and went to the 
festival. Here the two horses of the king carried off prize after 
prize in the racing, and the people cried: "There is not in Ireland 
a swifter than the King's pair of horses." 

"I have a wife at home," said Crundchu, in a moment of 
forgetfulness, "who can run quicker than these horses." 

"Seize that man," said the angry king, "and hold him till his 
wife be brought to the contest." 

So messengers went for Macha, and she was brought before 
the assembly; and she was with child. The king bade her prepare 
for the race. She pleaded her condition. "I am close upon my 
hour," she said. "Then hew her man in pieces," said the king 
to his guards. Macha turned to the bystanders. "Help me," she 
cried, "for a mother hath borne each of you! Give me but a short 
delay till I am delivered." But the king and all the crowd in their 
savage lust for sport would hear of no delay. "Then bring up the 
horses," said Macha, "and because you have no pity a heavier 
infamy shall fall upon you." So she raced against the horses, and 
outran them, but as she came to the goal she gave a great cry, 
and her travail seized her, and she gave birth to twin children. As 
[180] she uttered that cry, however, all the spectators felt themselves 

seized with pangs like her own and had no more strength than a 
woman in her travail. And Macha prophesied: "From this hour 
the shame you have wrought on me will fall upon each man of 
Ulster. In the hours of your greatest need ye shall be weak and 
helpless as women in childbirth, and this shall endure for five 
days and four nights — to the ninth generation the curse shall be 
upon you." And so it came to pass; and this is the cause of the 
Debility of the Ultonians that was wont to afflict the warriors of 
the province. 

Conor mac Nessa 

The chief occasion on which this Debility was manifested was 


when Maev, Queen of Connacht, made the famous Cattle-raid 
of Quelgny (Tain Bo Cuailgne), which forms the subject of 
the greatest tale in Irish literature. We have now to relate the 
preliminary history leading up to this epic tale and introducing 
its chief characters. 

Fachtna the Giant, King of Ulster, had to wife Nessa, daughter 
of Echid Yellow-heel, and she bore him a son named Conor. 
But when Fachtna died Fergus son of Roy, his half-brother, 
succeeded him, Conor being then but a youth. Now Fergus loved 
Nessa, and would have wedded her, but she made conditions. 
"Let my son Conor reign one year," she said, "so that his posterity 
may be the descendants of a king, and I consent." Fergus agreed, 
and young Conor took the throne. But so wise and prosperous 
was his rule and so sagacious his judgments that, at the year's 
end, the people,as Nessa foresaw, would have him remain king; 
and Fergus, who loved the feast and the chase better than the toils 
of kingship, was content to have it so, and remained at Conor's 
court for a time, great, honoured, and happy, but king no longer. [181] 

The Red Branch 

In his time was the glory of the "Red Branch" in Ulster, who 
were the offspring of Ross the Red, King of Ulster, with collateral 
relatives and allies, forming ultimately a kind of warlike Order. 
Most of the Red Branch heroes appear in the Ultonian Cycle 
of legend, so that a statement of their names and relationships 
may be usefully placed here before we proceed to speak of their 
doings. It is noticeable that they have a partly supernatural 
ancestry. Ross the Red, it is said, wedded a Danaan woman, 
Maga, daughter of Angus Og. 134 As a second wife he wedded a 
maiden named Roy. His descendants are as follows: 

Maga === Ross the Red === Roy 

134 See pp. 121-123 for an account of this deity. 

152 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

+ + 

Fachtna === Nessa Fergus mac Roy 
the Giant 

Conor mac 
But Maga was also wedded to the Druid Cathbad, and by him 
had three daughters, whose descendants played a notable part in 
the Ultonian legendary cycle. 

Cathbad === Maga 

Dectera[*] === Lugh Elva === Usna Finchoom 
=== Amorgin 

+ + + 

Cuchulain Naisi Ainle Ardan Conall of 



[*]Dectera also had a mortal husband, Sualtam, who 
passed as 
[182] Cuchulain's father. 

Birth of Cuchulain 

It was during the reign of Conor mac Nessa that the birth of the 
mightiest hero of the Celtic race, Cuchulain, came about, and this 
was the manner of it. The maiden Dectera, daughter of Cathbad, 
with fifty young girls, her companions at the court of Conor, 
one day disappeared, and for three years no searching availed to 


discover their dwelling-place or their fate. At last one summer 
day a flock of birds descended on the fields about Emain Macha 
and began to destroy the crops and fruit. The king, with Fergus 
and others of his nobles, went out against them with slings, but 
the birds flew only a little way off, luring the party on and on till 
at last they found themselves near the Fairy Mound of Angus on 
the river Boyne. Night fell, and the king sent Fergus with a party 
to discover some habitation where they might sleep. A hut was 
found, where they betook themselves to rest, but one of them, 
exploring further, came to a noble mansion by the river, and on 
entering it was met by a young man of splendid appearance. With 
the stranger was a lovely woman, his wife, and fifty maidens, 
who saluted the Ulster warrior with joy. And he recognised in 
them Dectera and her maidens, whom they had missed for three 
years, and in the glorious youth Lugh of the Long Arm, son of 
Ethlinn. He went back with his tale to the king, who immediately 
sent for Dectera to come to him. She, alleging that she was ill, 
requested a delay; and so the night passed; but in the morning 
there was found in the hut among the Ulster warriors a new-born 
male infant. It was Dectera's gift to Ulster, and for this purpose 
she had lured them to the fairy palace by the Boyne. The child 
was taken home by the warriors and was given to Dectera's sister, 
Finchoom, who was then nursing her own child, Conall, and the [183] 
boy's name was called Setanta. And the part of Ulster from 
Dundalk southward to Usna in Meath, which is called the Plain 
of Murthemney, was allotted for his inheritance, and in later days 
his fortress and dwelling-place was in Dundalk. 

It is said that the Druid Morann prophesied over the infant: 
"His praise will be in the mouths of all men; charioteers and 
warriors, kings and sages will recount his deeds; he will win the 
love of many. This child will avenge all your wrongs; he will 
give combat at your fords, he will decide all your quarrels." 

The Hound of Cullan 

When he was old enough the boy Setanta went to the court of 

154 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Conor to be brought up and instructed along with the other sons 
of princes and chieftains. It was now that the event occurred from 
which he got the name of Cuchulain, by which he was hereafter 
to be known. 

One afternoon King Conor and his nobles were going to a 
feast to which they were bidden at the dun of a wealthy smith 
named Cullan, in Quelgny, where they also meant to spend the 
night. Setanta was to accompany them, but as the cavalcade set 
off he was in the midst of a game of hurley with his companions 
and bade the king go forward, saying he would follow later when 
his play was done. The royal company arrived at their destination 
as night began to fall. Cullan received them hospitably, and in 
the great hall they made merry over meat and wine while the lord 
of the house barred the gates of his fortress and let loose outside 
a huge and ferocious dog which every night guarded the lonely 
mansion, and under whose protection, it was said, Cullan feared 
[184] nothing less than the onset of an army. 

But they had forgotten Setanta! In the middle of the laughter 
and music of the feast a terrible sound was heard which brought 
every man to his feet in an instant. It was the tremendous 
baying of the hound of Cullan, giving tongue as it saw a stranger 
approach. Soon the noise changed to the howls of a fierce 
combat, but, on rushing to the gates, they saw in the glare of 
the lanterns a young boy and the hound lying dead at his feet. 
When it flew at him he had seized it by the throat and dashed its 
life out against the side-posts of the gate. The warriors bore in 
the lad with rejoicing and wonder, but soon the triumph ceased, 
for there stood their host, silent and sorrowful over the body of 
his faithful friend, who had died for the safety of his house and 
would never guard it more. 

"Give me," then said the lad Setanta, "a whelp of that hound, 
O Cullan, and I will train him to be all to you that his sire was. 
And until then give me shield and spear and I will myself guard 
your house; never hound guarded it better than I will." 


And all the company shouted applause at the generous pledge, 
and on the spot, as a commemoration of his first deed of valour, 
they named the lad Cuchulain, 135 the Hound of Cullan, and by 
that name he was known until he died. 

Cuchulain Assumes Arms 

When he was older, and near the time when he might assume 
the weapons of manhood, it chanced one day that he passed close 
by where Cathbad the Druid was teaching to certain of his pupils [185] 
the art of divination and augury. One of them asked of Cathbad 
for what kind of enterprise that same day might be favourable; 
and Cathbad, having worked a spell of divination, said: "The 
youth who should take up arms on this day would become of all 
men in Erin most famous for great deeds, yet will his life be short 
and fleeting." Cuchulain passed on as though he marked it not, 
and he came before the king. "What wilt thou?" asked Conor. 
"To take the arms of manhood," said Cuchulain. "So be it," said 
the king, and he gave the lad two great spears. But Cuchulain 
shook them in his hand, and the staves splintered and broke. And 
so he did with many others; and the chariots in which they set 
him to drive he broke to pieces with stamping of his foot, until at 
last the king's own chariot of war and his two spears and sword 
were brought to the lad, and these he could not break, do what 
he would; so this equipment he retained. 

His Courtship of Emer 

The young Cuchulain was by this grown so fair and noble 
a youth that every maid or matron on whom he looked was 
bewitched by him, and the men of Ulster bade him take a wife 
of his own. But none were pleasing to him, till at last he saw the 
lovely maiden Emer, daughter of Forgall, the lord of Lusca, 136 

135 It is noticeable that among the characters figuring in the Ultonian legendary 
cycle many names occur of which the word Cu (hound) forms a part. Thus 
we have Curoi, Cucorb, Bealcu, &c. The reference is no doubt to the Irish 
wolf-hound, a fine type of valour and beauty. 

136 Now Lusk, a village on the coast a few miles north of Dublin. 

156 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

and he resolved to woo her for his bride. So he bade harness his 
chariot, and with Laeg, his friend and charioteer, he journeyed to 
Dun Forgall. 

As he drew near, the maiden was with her companions, 
daughters of the vassals of Forgall, and she was teaching them 
embroidery, for in that art she excelled all women. She had "the 
[186] six gifts of womanhood — the gift of beauty, the gift of voice, the 

gift of sweet speech, the gift of needlework, the gift of wisdom, 
and the gift of chastity." 

Hearing the thunder of horse-hoofs and the clangour of the 
chariot from afar, she bade one of the maidens go to the rampart 
of the Dun and tell her what she saw. "A chariot is coming on," 
said the maiden, "drawn by two steeds with tossing heads, fierce 
and powerful; one is grey, the other black. They breathe fire 
from their jaws, and the clods of turf they throw up behind them 
as they race are like a flock of birds that follow in their track. 
In the chariot is a dark, sad man, comeliest of the men of Erin. 
He is clad in a crimson cloak, with a brooch of gold, and on his 
back is a crimson shield with a silver rim wrought with figures 
of beasts. With him as his charioteer is a tall, slender, freckled 
man with curling red hair held by a fillet of bronze, with plates of 
gold at either side of his face. With a goad of red gold he urges 
the horses." 

When the chariot drew up Emer went to meet Cuchulain and 
saluted him. But when he urged his love upon her she told him 
of the might and the wiliness of her father Forgall, and of the 
strength of the champions that guarded her lest she should wed 
against his will. And when he pressed her more she said: "I may 
not marry before my sister Fial, who is older than I. She is with 
me here — she is excellent in handiwork." "It is not Fial whom 
I love," said Cuchulain. Then as they were conversing he saw 
the breast of the maiden over the bosom of her smock, and said 
to her: "Fair is this plain, the plain of the noble yoke." "None 
comes to this plain," said she, "who has not slain his hundreds, 


and thy deeds are still to do." 

So Cuchulain then left her, and drove back to Emain Macha. [187] 
Cuchulain in the Land of Skatha 

Next day Cuchulain bethought himself how he could prepare 
himself for war and for the deeds of heroism which Emer had 
demanded of him. Now he had heard of a mighty woman-warrior 
named Skatha, who dwelt in the Land of Shadows, 137 and who 
could teach to young heroes who came to her wonderful feats of 
arms. So Cuchulain went overseas to find her, and many dangers 
he had to meet, black forests and desert plains to traverse, before 
he could get tidings of Skatha and her land. At last he came 
to the Plain of Ill-luck, where he could not cross without being 
mired in its bottomless bogs or sticky clay, and while he was 
debating what he should do he saw coming towards him a young 
man with a face that shone like the sun, 138 and whose very look 
put cheerfulness and hope into his heart. The young man gave 
him a wheel and told him to roll it before him on the plain, and 
to follow it whithersoever it went. So Cuchulain set the wheel 
rolling, and as it went it blazed with light that shot like rays from 
its rim, and the heat of it made a firm path across the quagmire, 
where Cuchulain followed safely. 

When he had passed the Plain of Ill-luck, and escaped the 
beasts of the Perilous Glen, he came to the Bridge of the Leaps, 
beyond which was the country of Skatha. Here he found on the 
hither side many sons of the princes of Ireland who were come to 
learn feats of war from Skatha, and they were playing at hurley 
on the green. And among them was his friend Ferdia, son of the 
Firbolg, Daman; and they all asked him of the news from Ireland. [188] 
When he had told them all he asked Ferdia how he should pass 
to the dun of Skatha. Now the Bridge of Leaps was very narrow 

137 Owing to the similarity of the name the supernatural country of Skatha, "the 
Shadowy," was early identified with the islands of Skye, where the Cuchulain 
Peaks still bear witness to the legend. 

138 This, of course, was Cuchulain's father, Lugh. 

158 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

and very high, and it crossed a gorge where far below swung the 
tides of a boiling sea, in which ravenous monsters could be seen 

"Not one of us has crossed that bridge," said Ferdia, "for there 
are two feats that Skatha teaches last, and one is the leap across 
the bridge, and the other the thrust of the Gae Bolg. 139 For if 
a man step upon one end of that bridge, the middle straightway 
rises up and flings him back, and if he leap upon it he may chance 
to miss his footing and fall into the gulf, where the sea-monsters 
are waiting for him." 

But Cuchulain waited till evening, when he had recovered his 
strength from his long journey, and then essayed the crossing 
of the bridge. Three times he ran towards it from a distance, 
gathering all his powers together, and strove to leap upon the 
middle, but three times it rose against him and flung him back, 
while his companions jeered at him because he would not wait 
for the help of Skatha. But at the fourth leap he lit fairly on the 
centre of the bridge, and with one leap more he was across it, 
and stood before the strong fortress of Skatha; and she wondered 
at his courage and vigour, and admitted him to be her pupil. 

For a year and a day Cuchulain abode with Skatha, and all the 
feats she had to teach he learned easily, and last of all she taught 
him the use of the Gae Bolg, and gave him that dreadful weapon, 
which she had deemed no champion before him good enough to 
have. And the manner of using the Gae Bolg was that it was 
[189] thrown with the foot, and if it entered an enemy's body it filled 

every limb and crevice of him with its barbs. While Cuchulain 
dwelt with Skatha his friend above all friends and his rival in 
skill and valour was Ferdia, and ere they parted they vowed to 
love and help one another as long as they should live. 

Cuchulain and Aifa 

139 This means probably "the belly spear." With this terrible weapon Cuchulain 
was fated in the end to slay his friend Ferdia. 


Now whilst Cuchulain was in the Land of the Shadows it 
chanced that Skatha made war on the people of the Princess Aifa, 
who was the fiercest and strongest of the woman-warriors of the 
world, so that even Skatha feared to meet her in arms. On going 
forth to the war, therefore, Skatha mixed with Cuchulain's drink a 
sleepy herb so that he should not wake for four-and-twenty hours, 
by which time the host would be far on its way, for she feared 
lest evil should come to him ere he had got his full strength. But 
the potion that would have served another man for a day and a 
night only held Cuchulain for one hour; and when he waked up 
he seized his arms and followed the host by its chariot-tracks till 
he came up with them. Then it is said that Skatha uttered a sigh, 
for she knew that he would not be restrained from the war. 

When the armies met, Cuchulain and the two sons of Skatha 
wrought great deeds on the foe, and slew six of the mightiest of 
Aifa's warriors. Then Aifa sent word to Skatha and challenged 
her to single combat. But Cuchulain declared that he would meet 
the fair Fury in place of Skatha, and he asked first of all what 
were the things she most valued. "What Aifa loves most," said 
Skatha, "are her two horses, her chariot and her charioteer." Then 
the pair met in single combat, and every champion's feat which 
they knew they tried on each other in vain, till at last a blow 
of Aifa's shattered the sword of Cuchulain to the hilt. At this [190] 
Cuchulain cried out: "Ah me! behold the chariot and horses of 
Aifa, fallen into the glen!" Aifa glanced round, and Cuchulain, 
rushing in, seized her round the waist and slung her over his 
shoulder and bore her back to the camp of Skatha. There he flung 
her on the ground and put his knife to her throat. She begged for 
her life, and Cuchulain granted it on condition that she made a 
lasting peace with Skatha, and gave hostages for her fulfilment 
of the pledge. To this she agreed, and Cuchulain and she became 
not only friends but lovers. 

The Tragedy of Cuchulain and Connla 

Before Cuchulain left the Land of Shadows he gave Aifa a 

160 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

golden ring, saying that if she should bear him a son he was to be 
sent to seek his father in Erin so soon as he should have grown so 
that his finger would fit the ring. And Cuchulain said, "Charge 
him under geise that he shall not make himself known, that he 
never turn out of the way for any man, nor ever refuse a combat. 
And be his name called Connla." 

In later years it is narrated that one day when King Conor of 
Ulster and the lords of Ulster were at a festal gathering on the 
Strand of the Footprints they saw coming towards them across 
the sea a little boat of bronze, and in it a young lad with gilded 
oars in his hands. In the boat was a heap of stones, and ever and 
anon the lad would put one of these stones into a sling and cast 
it at a flying sea-bird in such fashion that it would bring down 
the bird alive to his feet. And many other wonderful feats of skill 
he did. Then Conor said, as the boat drew nearer: "If the grown 
men of that lad's country came here they would surely grind us 
[191] to powder. Woe to the land into which that boy shall come!" 

When the boy came to land, a messenger, Condery, was sent 
to bid him be off. "I will not turn back for thee," said the lad, and 
Condery repeated what he had said to the king. Then Conall of 
the Victories was sent against him, but the lad slung a great stone 
at him, and the whizz and wind of it knocked him down, and the 
lad sprang upon him, and bound his arms with the strap of his 
shield. And so man after man was served; some were bound, and 
some were slain, but the lad defied the whole power of Ulster to 
turn him back, nor would he tell his name or lineage. 

"Send for Cuchulain," then said King Conor. And they sent 
a messenger to Dundalk, where Cuchulain was with Emer his 
wife, and bade him come to do battle against a stranger boy 
whom Conall of the Victories could not overcome. Emer threw 
her arm round Cuchulain's neck. "Do not go," she entreated. 
"Surely this is the son of Aifa. Slay not thine only son." But 
Cuchulain said: "Forbear, woman! Were it Connla himself I 
would slay him for the honour of Ulster," and he bade yoke his 


chariot and went to the Strand. Here he found the boy tossing up 
his weapons and doing marvellous feats with them. "Delightful 
is thy play, boy," said Cuchulain; "who art thou and whence dost 
thou come?" "I may not reveal that," said the lad. "Then thou 
shalt die," said Cuchulain. "So be it," said the lad, and then they 
fought with swords for a while, till the lad delicately shore off a 
lock of Cuchulain's hair. "Enough of trifling," said Cuchulain, 
and they closed with each other, but the lad planted himself on a 
rock and stood so firm that Cuchulain could not move him, and 
in the stubborn wrestling they had the lad's two feet sank deep 
into the stone and made the footprints whence the Strand of the 
Footprints has its name. At last they both fell into the sea, and [192] 
Cuchulain was near being drowned, till he bethought himself of 
the Gae Bolg, and he drove that weapon against the lad and it 
ripped up his belly. "That is what Skatha never taught me," cried 
the lad. "Woe is me, for I am hurt." Cuchulain looked at him and 
saw the ring on his finger. "It is true," he said; and he took up 
the boy and bore him on shore and laid him down before Conor 
and the lords of Ulster. "Here is my son for you, men of Ulster," 
he said. And the boy said: "It is true. And if I had five years to 
grow among you, you would conquer the world on every side of 
you and rule as far as Rome. But since it is as it is, point out 
to me the famous warriors that are here, that I may know them 
and take leave of them before I die." Then one after another they 
were brought to him, and he kissed them and took leave of his 
father, and he died; and the men of Ulster made his grave and set 
up his pillar-stone with great mourning. This was the only son 
Cuchulain ever had, and this son he slew. 

This tale, as I have given it here, dates from the ninth century, 
and is found in the "Yellow Book of Lecan." There are many 
other Gaelic versions of it in poetry and prose. It is one of the 
earliest extant appearances in literature of the since well-known 
theme of the slaying of a heroic son by his father. The Persian 
rendering of it in the tale of Sohrab and Rustum has been made 

162 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

familiar by Matthew Arnold's fine poem. In the Irish version 
it will be noted that the father is not without a suspicion of the 
identity of his antagonist, but he does battle with him under the 
stimulus of that passionate sense of loyalty to his prince and 
province which was Cuchulain's most signal characteristic. 

To complete the story of Aifa and her son we have anticipated 
[193] events, and now turn back to take up the thread again. 

Cuchulain's First Foray 

After a year and a day of training in warfare under Skatha, 
Cuchulain returned to Erin, eager to test his prowess and to win 
Emer for his wife. So he bade harness his chariot and drove out 
to make a foray upon the fords and marches of Connacht, for 
between Connacht and Ulster there was always an angry surf of 
fighting along the borders. 

And first he drove to the White Cairn, which is on the highest of 
the Mountains of Mourne, and surveyed the land of Ulster spread 
out smiling in the sunshine far below and bade his charioteer 
tell him the name of every hill and plain and dun that he saw. 
Then turning southwards he looked over the plains of Bregia, 
and the charioteer pointed out to him Tara and Teltin, and Brugh 
na Boyna and the great dun of the sons of Nechtan. "Are they," 
asked Cuchulain, "those sons of Nechtan of whom it is said that 
more of the men of Ulster have fallen by their hands than are 
yet living on the earth?" "The same," said the charioteer. "Then 
let us drive thither," said Cuchulain. So, much unwilling, the 
charioteer drove to the fortress of the sons of Nechtan, and there 
on the green before it they found a pillar-stone, and round it a 
collar of bronze having on it writing in Ogham. This Cuchulain 
read, and it declared that any man of age to bear arms who 
should come to that green should hold it geis for him to depart 
without having challenged one of the dwellers in the dun to 
single combat. Then Cuchulain flung his arms round the stone, 
and, swaying it backwards and forwards, heaved it at last out of 
the earth and flung it, collar and all, into the river that ran hard 


by. "Surely," said the charioteer, "thou art seeking for a violent 
death, and now thou wilt find it without delay." [194] 

Then Foill son of Nechtan came forth from the dun, and seeing 
Cuchulain, whom he deemed but a lad, he was annoyed. But 
Cuchulain bade him fetch his arms, "for I slay not drivers nor 
messengers nor unarmed men," and Foill went back into the dun. 
"Thou canst not slay him," then said the charioteer, "for he is 
invulnerable by magic power to the point or edge of any blade." 
But Cuchulain put in his sling a ball of tempered iron, and when 
Foill appeared he slung at him so that it struck his forehead, 
and went clean through brain and skull; and Cuchulain took his 
head and bound it to his chariot-rim. And other sons of Nechtan, 
issuing forth, he fought with and slew by sword or spear; and 
then he fired the dun and left it in a blaze and drove on exultant. 
And on the way he saw a flock of wild swans, and sixteen of 
them he brought down alive with his sling, and tied them to the 
chariot; and seeing a herd of wild deer which his horses could not 
overtake he lighted down and chased them on foot till he caught 
two great stags, and with thongs and ropes he made them fast to 
the chariot. 

But at Emain Macha a scout of King Conor came running in to 
give him news. "Behold, a solitary chariot is approaching swiftly 
over the plain; wild white birds flutter round it and wild stags 
are tethered to it; it is decked all round with the bleeding heads 
of enemies." And Conor looked to see who was approaching, 
and he saw that Cuchulain was in his battle-fury, and would 
deal death around him whomsoever he met; so he hastily gave 
order that a troop of the women of Emania should go forth to 
meet him, and, having stripped off their clothing, should stand 
naked in the way. This they did, and when the lad saw them, 
smitten with shame, he bowed his head upon the chariot-rim. 
Then Conor's men instantly seized him and plunged him into [195] 
a vat of cold water which had been made ready, but the water 
boiled around him and the staves and hoops of the vat were burst 

164 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

asunder. This they did again and yet again, and at last his fury 
left him, and his natural form and aspect were restored. Then 
they clad him in fresh raiment and bade him in to the feast in the 
king's banqueting-hall. 

The Winning of Emer 

Next day he went to the dun of Forgall the Wily, father of 
Emer, and he leaped "the hero's salmon leap," that he had learned 
of Skatha, over the high ramparts of the dun. Then the mighty 
men of Forgall set on him, and he dealt but three blows, and each 
blow slew eight men, and Forgall himself fell lifeless in leaping 
from the rampart of the dun to escape Cuchulain. So he carried 
off Emer and her foster-sister and two loads of gold and silver. 
But outside the dun the sister of Forgall raised a host against 
him, and his battle-fury came on him, and furious were the blows 
he dealt, so that the ford of Glondath ran blood and the turf on 
Crofot was trampled into bloody mire. A hundred he slew at 
every ford from Olbiny to the Boyne; and so was Emer won as 
she desired, and he brought her to Emain Macha and made her 
his wife, and they were not parted again until he died. 

Cuchulain Champion of Erin 

A lord of Ulster named Briccriu of the Poisoned Tongue once 
made a feast to which he bade King Conor and all the heroes of 
the Red Branch, and because it was always his delight to stir up 
strife among men or women he set the heroes contending among 
themselves as to who was the champion of the land of Erin. At 
[196] last it was agreed that the championship must lie among three of 

them, namely, Cuchulain, and Conall of the Victories and Laery 
the Triumphant. To decide between these three a demon named 
The Terrible was summoned from a lake in the depth of which 
he dwelt. He proposed to the heroes a test of courage. Any one 
of them, he said, might cut off his head to-day provided that he, 
the claimant of the championship, would lay down his own head 
for the axe to-morrow. Conall and Laery shrank from the test, 
but Cuchulain accepted it, and after reciting a charm over his 


sword, he cut off the head of the demon, who immediately rose, 
and taking the bleeding head in one hand and his axe in the other, 
plunged into the lake. 

Next day he reappeared, whole and sound, to claim the 
fulfilment of the bargain. Cuchulain, quailing but resolute, laid 
his head on the block. "Stretch out your neck, wretch," cried the 
demon; "'tis too short for me to strike at." Cuchulain does as he is 
bidden. The demon swings his axe thrice over his victim, brings 
down the butt with a crash on the block, and then bids Cuchulain 
rise unhurt, Champion of Ireland and her boldest man. 

Deirdre and the Sons of Usna 

We have now to turn to a story in which Cuchulain takes no 
part. It is the chief of the preliminary tales to the Cattle-spoil of 

There was among the lords of Ulster, it is said, one named 
Felim son of Dall, who on a certain day made a great feast for 
the king. And the king came with his Druid Cathbad, and Fergus 
mac Roy, and many heroes of the Red Branch, and while they 
were making merry over the roasted flesh and wheaten cakes 
and Greek wine a messenger from the women's apartments came [197] 
to tell Felim that his wife had just borne him a daughter. So 
all the lords and warriors drank health to the new-born infant, 
and the king bade Cathbade perform divination in the manner 
of the Druids and foretell what the future would have in store 
for Felim's babe. Cathbad gazed upon the stars and drew the 
horoscope of the child, and he was much troubled; and at length 
he said: "The infant shall be fairest among the women of Erin, 
and shall wed a king, but because of her shall death and ruin 
come upon the Province of Ulster." Then the warriors would 
have put her to death upon the spot, but Conor forbade them. "I 
will avert the doom," he said, "for she shall wed no foreign king, 
but she shall be my own mate when she is of age." So he took 
away the child, and committed it to his nurse Levarcam, and the 
name they gave it was Deirdre. And Conor charged Levarcam 

166 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

that the child should be brought up in a strong dun in the solitude 
of a great wood, and that no young man should see her or she 
him until she was of marriageable age for the king to wed. And 
there she dwelt, seeing none but her nurse and Cathbad, and 
sometimes the king, now growing an aged man, who would visit 
the dun from time to time to see that all was well with the folk 
there, and that his commands were observed. 

One day, when the time for the marriage of Deirdre and Conor 
was drawing near, Deirdre and Levarcam looked over the rampart 
of their dun. It was winter, a heavy snow had fallen in the night, 
and in the still, frosty air the trees stood up as if wrought in silver, 
and the green before the dun was a sheet of unbroken white, save 
that in one place a scullion had killed a calf for their dinner, and 
the blood of the calf lay on the snow. And as Deirdre looked, a 
[198] raven lit down from a tree hard by and began to sip the blood. "O 

nurse," cried Deirdre suddenly, "such, and not like Conor, would 
be the man that I would love — his hair like the raven's wing, and 
in his cheek the hue of blood, and his skin as white as snow." 
"Thou hast pictured a man of Conor's household," said the nurse. 
"Who is he?" asked Deirdre. "He is Naisi, son of Usna, 140 a 
champion of the Red Branch," said the nurse. Thereupon Deirdre 
entreated Levarcam to bring her to speak with Naisi; and because 
the old woman loved the girl and would not have her wedded 
to the aged king, she at last agreed. Deirdre implored Naisi to 
save her from Conor, but he would not, till at last her entreaties 
and her beauty won him, and he vowed to be hers. Then secretly 
one night he came with his two brethren, Ardan and Ainle, and 
bore away Deirdre with Levarcam, and they escaped the king's 
pursuit and took ship for Scotland, where Naisi took service with 
the King of the Picts. Yet here they could not rest, for the king 
got sight of Deirdre, and would have taken her from Naisi, but 
Naisi with his brothers escaped, and in the solitude of Glen Etive 

140 See genealogical table, p. 181. 


they made their dwelling by the lake, and there lived in the wild 
wood by hunting and fishing, seeing no man but themselves and 
their servants. 

And the years went by and Conor made no sign, but he did 
not forget, and his spies told him of all that befell Naisi and 
Deirdre. At last, judging that Naisi and his brothers would have 
tired of solitude, he sent the bosom friend of Naisi, Fergus son 
of Roy, to bid them return, and to promise them that all would 
be forgiven. Fergus went joyfully, and joyfully did Naisi and his 
brothers hear the message, but Deirdre foresaw evil, and would 
fain have sent Fergus home alone. But Naisi blamed her for her [199] 
doubt and suspicion, and bade her mark that they were under the 
protection of Fergus, whose safeguard no king in Ireland would 
dare to violate; and they at last made ready to go. 

On landing in Ireland they were met by Baruch, a lord of the 
Red Branch, who had his dun close by, and he bade Fergus to a 
feast he had prepared for him that night. "I may not stay," said 
Fergus, "for I must first convey Deirdre and the sons of Usna 
safely to Emain Macha." "Nevertheless," said Baruch, "thou 
must stay with me to-night, for it is a geis for thee to refuse a 
feast." Deirdre implored him not to leave them, but Fergus was 
tempted by the feast, and feared to break his geis, and he bade 
his two sons Ulan the Fair and Buino the Red take charge of the 
party in his place, and he himself abode with Baruch. 

And so the party came to Emain Macha, and they were lodged 
in the House of the Red Branch, but Conor did not receive them. 
After the evening meal, as he sat, drinking heavily and silently, 
he sent a messenger to bid Levarcam come before him. "How is 
it with the sons of Usna?" he said to her. "It is well," she said. 
"Thou hast got the three most valorous champions in Ulster in thy 
court. Truly the king who has those three need fear no enemy." 
"Is it well with Deirdre?" he asked. "She is well," said the nurse, 
"but she has lived many years in the wildwood, and toil and care 
have changed her — little of her beauty of old now remains to her, 

168 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

O King." Then the king dismissed her, and sat drinking again. 
But after a while he called to him a servant named Trendorn, and 
bade him go to the Red Branch House and mark who was there 
and what they did. But when Trendorn came the place was bolted 
and barred for the night, and he could not get an entrance, and 
[200] at last he mounted on a ladder and looked in at a high window. 

And there he saw the brothers of Naisi and the sons of Fergus, 
as they talked or cleaned their arms, or made them ready for 
slumber, and there sat Naisi with a chess-board before him, and 
playing chess with him was the fairest of women that he had ever 
seen. But as he looked in wonder at the noble pair, suddenly 
one caught sight of him and rose with a cry, pointing to the face 
at the window. And Naisi looked up and saw it, and seizing a 
chessman from the board he hurled it at the face of the spy, and 
it struck out his eye. Then Trendorn hastily descended, and went 
back with his bloody face to the king. "I have seen them," he 
cried, "I have seen the fairest woman of the world, and but that 
Naisi had struck my eye out I had been looking on her still." 

Then Conor arose and called for his guards and bade them 
bring the sons of Usna before him for maiming his messenger. 
And the guards went; but first Buino, son of Fergus, with his 
retinue, met them, and at the sword's point drove them back; but 
Naisi and Deirdre continued quietly to play chess, "For," said 
Naisi, "it is not seemly that we should seek to defend ourselves 
while we are under the protection of the sons of Fergus." But 
Conor went to Buino, and with a great gift of lands he bought 
him over to desert his charge. Then Illan took up the defence 
of the Red Branch Hostel, but the two sons of Conor slew him. 
And then at last Naisi and his brothers seized their weapons and 
rushed amid the foe, and many were they who fell before the 
onset. Then Conor entreated Cathbad the Druid to cast spells 
upon them lest they should get away and become the enemies of 
the province, and he vowed to do them no hurt if they were taken 
alive. So Cathbad conjured up, as it were, a lake of slime that 


seemed to be about the feet of the sons of Usna, and they could [201] 
not tear their feet from it, and Naisi caught up Deirdre and put 
her on his shoulder, for they seemed to be sinking in the slime. 
Then the guards and servants of Conor seized and bound them 
and brought them before the king. And the king called upon man 
after man to come forward and slay the sons of Usna, but none 
would obey him, till at last Owen son of Duracht and Prince of 
Ferney came and took the sword of Naisi, and with one sweep 
he shore off the heads of all three, and so they died. 

Then Conor took Deirdre perforce, and for a year she abode 
with him in the palace in Emain Macha, but during all that 
time she never smiled. At length Conor said: "What is it that 
you hate most of all on earth, Deirdre?" And she said: "Thou 
thyself and Owen son of Duracht," and Owen was standing by. 
"Then thou shalt go to Owen for a year," said Conor. But when 
Deirdre mounted the chariot behind Owen she kept her eyes on 
the ground, for she would not look on those who thus tormented 
her; and Conor said, taunting her: "Deirdre, the glance of thee 
between me and Owen is the glance of a ewe between two rams." 
Then Deirdre started up, and, flinging herself head foremost from 
the chariot, she dashed her head against a rock and fell dead. 

And when they buried her it is said there grew from her grave 
and from Naisi's two yew-trees, whose tops, when they were 
full-grown, met each other over the roof of the great church of 
Armagh, and intertwined together, and none could part them. 

The Rebellion of Fergus 

When Fergus mac Roy came home to Emain Macha after the 
feast to which Baruch bade him and found the sons of Usna slain [202] 
and one of his own sons dead and the other a traitor, he broke 
out against Conor in a storm of wrath and cursing, and vowed 
to be avenged on him with fire and sword. And he went off 
straightway to Connacht to take service of arms with Ailell and 
Maev, who were king and queen of that country. 

Queen Maev 

170 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

But though Ailell was king, Maev was the ruler in truth, and 
ordered all things as she wished, and took what husbands she 
wished, and dismissed them at pleasure; for she was as fierce and 
strong as a goddess of war, and knew no law but her own wild 
will. She was tall, it is said, with a long, pale face and masses of 
hair yellow as ripe corn. When Fergus came to her in her palace 
at Rathcroghan in Roscommon she gave him her love, as she had 
given it to many before, and they plotted together how to attack 
and devastate the Province of Ulster. 

The Brown Bull of Quelgny 

Now it happened that Maev possessed a famous red bull with 
white front and horns named Finnbenach, and one day when 
she and Ailell were counting up their respective possessions and 
matching them against each other he taunted her because the 
Finnbenach would not stay in the hands of a woman, but had 
attached himself to Ailell's herd. So Maev in vexation went to her 
steward, mac Roth, and asked of him if there were anywhere in 
Erin a bull as fine as the Finnbenach. "Truly," said the steward, 
"there is — for the Brown Bull of Quelgny, that belongs to Dara 
son of Fachtna, is the mightiest beast that is in Ireland." And after 
[203] that Maev felt as if she had no flocks and herds that were worth 

anything at all unless she possessed the Brown Bull of Quelgny. 
But this was in Ulster, and the Ulstermen knew the treasure they 
possessed, and Maev knew that they would not give up the bull 
without fighting for it. So she and Fergus and Ailell agreed to 
make a foray against Ulster for the Brown Bull, and thus to enter 
into war with the province, for Fergus longed for vengeance, and 
Maev for fighting, for glory, and for the bull, and Ailell to satisfy 

Here let us note that this contest for the bull, which is the 
ostensible theme of the greatest of Celtic legendary tales, the 
"Tain Bo Cuailgne," has a deeper meaning than appears on the 
surface. An ancient piece of Aryan mythology is embedded 
in it. The Brown Bull is the Celtic counterpart of the Hindu 


sky-deity, Indra, represented in Hindu myth as a mighty bull, 
whose roaring is the thunder and who lets loose the rains "like 
cows streaming forth to pasture." The advance of the Western 
(Connacht) host for the capture of this bull is emblematic of the 
onset of Night. The bull is defended by the solar hero Cuchulain, 
who, however, is ultimately overthrown and the bull is captured 
for a season. The two animals in the Celtic legend probably 
typify the sky in different aspects. They are described with a 
pomp and circumstance which shows that they are no common 
beasts. Once, we are told, they were swineherds of the people 
of Dana. "They had been successively transformed into two 
ravens, two sea-monsters, two warriors, two demons, two worms 
or animalculae, and finally into two kine." 141 The Brown Bull is 
described as having a back broad enough for fifty children to play 
on; when he is angry with his keeper he stamps the man thirty feet [204] 
into the ground; he is likened to a sea wave, to a bear, to a dragon, 
a lion, the writer heaping up images of strength and savagery. 
We are therefore concerned with no ordinary cattle-raid, but with 
a myth, the features of which are discernible under the dressing 
given it by the fervid imagination of the unknown Celtic bard 
who composed the "Tain," although the exact meaning of every 
detail may be difficult to ascertain. 

The first attempt of Maev to get possession of the bull was to 
send an embassy to Dara to ask for the loan of him for a year, the 
recompense offered being fifty heifers, besides the bull himself 
back, and if Dara chose to settle in Connacht he should have as 
much land there as he now possessed in Ulster, and a chariot 
worth thrice seven cumals, 142 with the patronage and friendship 
of Maev. 

Dara was at first delighted with the prospect, but tales were 

141 Miss Hull, "The Cuchullin Saga," p. lxxii, where the solar theory of the 
Brown Bull is dealt with at length. 

142 A cumal was the unit of value in Celtic Ireland. It is mentioned as such by 
St. Patrick. It meant the price of a woman-slave. 

172 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

borne to him of the chatter of Maev's messengers, and how they 
said that if the bull was not yielded willingly it would be taken by 
force; and he sent back a message of refusal and defiance. "Twas 
known," said Maev, "the bull will not be yielded by fair means; 
he shall now be won by foul." And so she sent messengers around 
on every side to summon her hosts for the Raid. 

The Hosting of Queen Maev 

And there came all the mighty men of Connacht — first the 
seven Maines, sons of Ailell and Maev, each with his retinue; 
and Ket and Anluan, sons of Maga, with thirty hundreds of armed 
men; and yellow-haired Ferdia, with his company of Firbolgs, 
[205] boisterous giants who delighted in war and in strong ale. And 

there came also the allies of Maev — a host of the men of Leinster, 
who so excelled the rest in warlike skill that they were broken 
up and distributed among the companies of Connacht, lest they 
should prove a danger to the host; and Cormac son of Conor, 
with Fergus mac Roy and other exiles from Ulster, who had 
revolted against Conor for his treachery to the sons of Usna. 

Ulster under the Curse 

But before the host set forth towards Ulster Maev sent her 
spies into the land to tell her of the preparations there being 
made. And the spies brought back a wondrous tale, and one 
that rejoiced the heart of Maev, for they said that the Debility 
of the Ultonians 143 had descended on the province. Conor the 
king lay in pangs at Emain Macha, and his son Cuscrid in his 
island-fortress, and Owen Prince of Ferney was helpless as a 
child; Celtchar, the huge grey warrior, son of Uthecar Hornskin, 
and even Conall of the Victories, lay moaning and writhing on 
their beds, and there was no hand in Ulster that could lift a spear. 

Prophetic Voices 

Nevertheless Maev went to her chief Druid, and demanded 
of him what her own lot in the war should be. And the Druid 

143 The cune laid on them by Macha. Sec p. 180. 


said only: "Whoever comes hack in safety, or comes not, thou 
thyself shalt come." But on her journey back she saw suddenly 
standing before her chariot-pole a young maiden with tresses of 
yellow hair that fell below her knees, and clad in a mantle of 
green; and with a shuttle of gold she wove a fabric upon a loom. 
"Who art thou, girl?" said Maev, "and what dost thou?" "I am the [206] 
prophetess, Fedelma, from the Fairy Mound of Croghan," said 
the maid, "and I weave the four provinces of Ireland together for 
the foray into Ulster." "How seest thou our host?" asked Maev. 
"I see them all be-crimsoned, red," replied the prophetess. "Yet 
the Ulster heroes are all in their pangs — there is none that can lift 
a spear against us," said Maev. "I see the host all becrimsoned," 
said Fedelma. "I see a man of small stature, but the hero's 
light is on his brow — a stripling young and modest, but in battle 
a dragon; he is like unto Cuchulain of Murthemney; he doth 
wondrous feats with his weapons; by him your slain shall lie 
thickly." 144 

At this the vision of the weaving maiden vanished, and Maev 
drove homewards to Rathcroghan wondering at what she had 
seen and heard. 

Cuchulain Puts the Host under Geise 

On the morrow the host set forth, Fergus mac Roy leading 
them, and as they neared the confines of Ulster he bade them 
keep sharp watch lest Cuchulain of Murthemney, who guarded 
the passes of Ulster to the south, should fall upon them unawares. 
Now Cuchulain and his father Sualtam 145 were on the borders 
of the province, and Cuchulain, from a warning Fergus had sent 
him, suspected the approach of a great host, and bade Sualtam go 
northwards to Emania and warn the men of Ulster. But Cuchulain 
himself would not stay there, for he said he had a tryst to keep 
with a handmaid of the wife of Laery the bodach (farmer), so he 

144 Cuchulain, as the son of the god Lugh, was not subject to the curse of 
Macha which afflicted the other Ultonians. 

145 His reputed father, the mortal husband of Dectera 

174 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

[207] went into the forest, and there, standing on one leg, and using 

only one hand and one eye, he cut an oak sapling and twisted it 
into a circular withe. On this he cut in Ogham characters how the 
withe was made, and he put the host of Maev under geise not to 
pass by that place till one of them had, under similar conditions, 
made a similar withe; "and I except my friend Fergus mac Roy," 
he added, and wrote his name at the end. Then he placed the 
withe round the pillar-stone of Ardcullin, and went his way to 
keep his tryst with the handmaid. 146 

When the host of Maev came to Ardcullin, the withe upon 
the pillar-stone was found and brought to Fergus to decipher it. 
There was none amongst the host who could emulate the feat of 
Cuchulain, and so they went into the wood and encamped for the 
night. A heavy snowfall took place, and they were all in much 
distress, but next day the sun rose gloriously, and over the white 
plain they marched away into Ulster, counting the prohibition as 
extending only for one night. 

The Ford of the Forked Pole 

Cuchulain now followed hard on their track, and as he went 
he estimated by the tracks they had left the number of the host 
at eighteen triucha cet (54,000 men). Circling round the host, 
he now met them in front, and soon came upon two chariots 
containing scouts sent ahead by Maev. These he slew, each man 
with his driver, and having with one sweep of his sword cut a 
forked pole of four prongs from the wood, he drove the pole deep 
into a river-ford at the place called Athgowla, 147 and impaled on 
each prong a bloody head. When the host came up they wondered 
[208] and feared at the sight, and Fergus declared that they were under 

geise not to pass that ford till one of them had plucked out the 
pole even as it was driven in, with the fingertips of one hand. 
So Fergus drove into the water to essay the feat, and seventeen 

146 In the Irish bardic literature, as in the Homeric epics, chastity formed no 
part of the masculine ideal either for gods or men. 


chariots were broken under him as he tugged at the pole, but at 
last he tore it out; and as it was now late the host encamped upon 
the spot. These devices of Cuchulain were intended to delay the 
invaders until the Ulster men had recovered from their debility. 

In the epic, as given in the Book of Leinster, and other ancient 
sources, a long interlude now takes place in which Fergus 
explains to Maev who it is — viz., "my little pupil Setanta" — who 
is thus harrying the host, and his boyish deeds, some of which 
have been already told in this narrative, are recounted. 

The Charioteer of Orlam 

The host proceeded on its way next day, and the next encounter 
with Cuchulain shows the hero in a kindlier mood. He hears 
a noise of timber being cut, and going into a wood he finds 
there a charioteer belonging to a son of Ailell and Maev cutting 
down chariot-poles of holly, "For," says he, "we have damaged 
our chariots sadly in chasing that famous deer, Cuchulain." 
Cuchulain — who, it must be remembered, was at ordinary times 
a slight and unimposing figure, though in battle he dilated in 
size and underwent a fearful distortion, symbolic of Berserker 
fury — helps the driver in his work. "Shall I," he asks, "cut the 
poles or trim them for thee?" "Do thou the trimming," says the 
driver. Cuchulain takes the poles by the tops and draws them 
against the set of the branches through his toes, and then runs his 
fingers down them the same way, and gives them over as smooth 
and polished as if they were planed by a carpenter. The driver [209] 
stares at him. "I doubt this work I set thee to is not thy proper 
work," he says. "Who art thou then at all?" "I am that Cuchulain 
of whom thou spakest but now." "Surely I am but a dead man," 
says the driver. "Nay," replies Cuchulain, "I slay not drivers nor 
messengers nor men unarmed. But run, tell thy master Orlam 
that Cuchulain is about to visit him." The driver runs off, but 
Cuchulain outstrips him, meets Orlam first, and strikes off his 
head. For a moment the host of Maev see him as he shakes this 
bloody trophy before them; then he disappears from sight — it is 

176 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the first glimpse they have caught of their persecutor. 
The Battle-Frenzy of Cuchulain 

A number of scattered episodes now follow. The host of 
Maev spreads out and devastates the territories of Bregia and 
of Murthemney, but they cannot advance further into Ulster. 
Cuchulain hovers about them continually, slaying them by twos 
and threes, and no man knows where he will swoop next. Maev 
herself is awed when, by the bullets of an unseen slinger, a 
squirrel and a pet bird are killed as they sit upon her shoulders. 
Afterwards, as Cuchulain's wrath grows fiercer, he descends with 
supernatural might upon whole companies of the Connacht host, 
and hundreds fall at his onset. The characteristic distortion or 
riastradh which seized him in his battle-frenzy is then described. 
He became a fearsome and multiform creature such as never was 
known before. Every particle of him quivered like a bulrush 
in a running stream. His calves and heels and hams shifted to 
the front, and his feet and knees to the back, and the muscles 
[210] of his neck stood out like the head of a young child. One eye 

was engulfed deep in his head, the other protruded, his mouth 
met his ears, foam poured from his jaws like the fleece of a 
three-year-old wether. The beats of his heart sounded like the 
roars of a lion as he rushes on his prey. A light blazed above 
his head, and "his hair became tangled about as it had been the 
branches of a red thorn-bush stuffed into the gap of a fence.... 
Taller, thicker, more rigid, longer than the mast of a great ship 
was the perpendicular jet of dusky blood which out of his scalp's 
very central point shot upwards and was there scattered to the 
four cardinal points, whereby was formed a magic mist of gloom 
resembling the smoky pall that drapes a regal dwelling, what 
time a king at nightfall of a winter's day draws near to it." 148 

Such was the imagery by which Gaelic writers conveyed the 
idea of superhuman frenzy. At the sight of Cuchulain in his 

148 I quote from Standish Hayes O'Grady's translation, in Miss Hull's 
"Cuchullin Saga." 


paroxysm it is said that once a hundred of Maev's warriors fell 
dead from horror. 

The Compact of the Ford 

Maev now tried to tempt him by great largesse to desert the 
cause of Ulster, and had a colloquy with him, the two standing on 
opposite sides of a glen across which they talked. She scanned 
him closely, and was struck by his slight and boyish appearance. 
She failed to move him from his loyalty to Ulster, and death 
descends more thickly than ever upon the Connacht host; the 
men are afraid to move out for plunder save in twenties and 
thirties, and at night the stones from Cuchulain's sling whistle 
continually through the camp, braining or maiming. At last, 
through the mediation of Fergus, an agreement was come to. 
Cuchulain undertook not to harry the host provided they would 
only send against him one champion at a time, whom Cuchulain [21 1] 
would meet in battle at the ford of the River Dee, which is now 
called the Ford of Ferdia. 149 While each fight was in progress the 
host might move on, but when it was ended they must encamp 
till the morrow morning. "Better to lose one man a day than a 
hundred," said Maev, and the pact was made. 

Fergus and Cuchulain 

Several single combats are then narrated, in which Cuchulain 
is always a victor. Maev even persuades Fergus to go against 
him, but Fergus and Cuchulain will on no account fight each 
other, and Cuchulain, by agreement with Fergus, pretends to fly 
before him, on Fergus's promise that he will do the same for 
Cuchulain when required. How this pledge was kept we shall see 

Capture of the Brown Bull 

During one of Cuchulain's duels with a famous champion, 
Natchrantal, Maev, with a third of her army, makes a sudden 

149 Ath Fherdia, which is pronounced and now spelt "Ardee." It is in Co. Louth, 
at the southern border of the Plain of Murthemney, which was Cuchulain's 

178 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

foray into Ulster and penetrates as far as Dunseverick, on the 
northern coast, plundering and ravaging as they go. The Brown 
Bull, who was originally at Quelgny (Co. Down), has been 
warned at an earlier stage by the Morrigan 150 to withdraw 
himself, and he has taken refuge, with his herd of cows, in a 
glen of Slievegallion, Co. Armagh. The raiders of Maev find 
him there, and drive him off with the herd in triumph, passing 
Cuchulain as they return. Cuchulain slays the leader of the 
[212] escort — Buic son of Banblai — but cannot rescue the Bull, and 

"this," it is said, "was the greatest affront put on Cuchulain during 
the course of the raid." 

The Morrigan 

The raid ought now to have ceased, for its object has been 
attained, but by this time the hostings of the four southern 
provinces 151 had gathered together under Maev for the plunder 
of Ulster, and Cuchulain remained still the solitary warder of the 
marches. Nor did Maev keep her agreement, for bands of twenty 
warriors at a time were loosed against him and he had much 
ado to defend himself. The curious episode of the fight with the 
Morrigan now occurs. A young woman clad in a mantle of many 
colours appears to Cuchulain, telling him that she is a king's 
daughter, attracted by the tales of his great exploits, and she has 
come to offer him her love. Cuchulain tells her rudely that he is 
worn and harassed with war and has no mind to concern himself 
with women. "It shall go hard with thee," then said the maid, 
"when thou hast to do with men, and I shall be about thy feet 
as an eel in the bottom of the Ford." Then she and her chariot 
vanished from his sight and he saw but a crow sitting on a branch 
of a tree, and he knew that he had spoken with the Morrigan. 

The Fight with Loch 

150 Seep. 126. 

151 In ancient Ireland there were five provinces, Munster being counted as two, 
or, as some ancient authorities explain it, the High King's territory in Meath 
and Westmeath being reckoned a separate province. 


The next champion sent against him by Maev was Loch son 
of Mofebis. To meet this hero it is said that Cuchulain had to 
stain his chin with blackberry juice so as to simulate a beard, lest 
Loch should disdain to do combat with a boy. So they fought in 
the Ford, and the Morrigan came against him in the guise of a [213] 
white heifer with red ears, but Cuchulain fractured her eye with 
a cast of his spear. Then she came swimming up the river like 
a black eel and twisted herself about his legs, and ere he could 
rid himself of her Loch wounded him. Then she attacked him 
as a grey wolf, and again, before he could subdue her, he was 
wounded by Loch. At this his battle-fury took hold of him and 
he drove the Gae Bolg against Loch, splitting his heart in two. 
"Suffer me to rise," said Loch, "that I may fall on my face on thy 
side of the ford, and not backward toward the men of Erin." "It is 
a warrior's boon thou askest," said Cuchulain, "and it is granted." 
So Loch died; and a great despondency, it is said, now fell upon 
Cuchulain, for he was outwearied with continued fighting, and 
sorely wounded, and he had never slept since the beginning of 
the raid, save leaning upon his spear; and he sent his charioteer, 
Laeg, to see if he could rouse the men of Ulster to come to his 
aid at last. 

Lugh the Protector 

But as he lay at evening by the grave mound of Lerga in 
gloom and dejection, watching the camp-fires of the vast army 
encamped over against him and the glitter of their innumerable 
spears, he saw coming through the host a tall and comely warrior 
who strode impetuously forward, and none of the companies 
through which he passed turned his head to look at him or 
seemed to see him. He wore a tunic of silk embroidered with 
gold, and a green mantle fastened with a silver brooch; in one 
hand was a black shield bordered with silver and two spears in 
the other. The stranger came to Cuchulain and spoke gently and 
sweetly to him of his long toil and waking, and his sore wounds, 
and said in the end: "Sleep now, Cuchulain, by the grave in 

180 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

[214] Lerga; sleep and slumber deeply for three days, and for that 

time I will take thy place and defend the Ford against the host 
of Maev." Then Cuchulain sank into a profound slumber and 
trance, and the stranger laid healing balms of magical power to 
his wounds so that he awoke whole and refreshed, and for the 
time that Cuchulain slept the stranger held the Ford against the 
host. And Cuchulain knew that this was Lugh his father, who had 
come from among the People of Dana to help his son through his 
hour of gloom and despair. 

The Sacrifice of the Boy Corps 

But still the men of Ulster lay helpless. Now there was at 
Emain Macha a band of thrice fifty boys, the sons of all the 
chieftains of the provinces, who were there being bred up in 
arms and in noble ways, and these suffered not from the curse of 
Macha, for it fell only on grown men. But when they heard of the 
sore straits in which Cuchulain, their playmate not long ago, was 
lying they put on their light armour and took their weapons and 
went forth for the honour of Ulster, under Conor's young son, 
Follaman, to aid him. And Follaman vowed that he would never 
return to Emania without the diadem of Ailell as a trophy. Three 
times they drove against the host of Maev, and thrice their own 
number fell before them, but in the end they were overwhelmed 
and slain, not one escaping alive. 

The Carnage of Murthemney 

This was done as Cuchulain lay in his trance, and when he 
awoke, refreshed and well, and heard what had been done, his 
frenzy came upon him and he leaped into his war-chariot and 
drove furiously round and round the host of Maev. And the 
chariot ploughed the earth till the ruts were like the ramparts of 
[215] a fortress, and the scythes upon its wheels caught and mangled 

the bodies of the crowded host till they were piled like a wall 
around the camp, and as Cuchulain shouted in his wrath the 
demons and goblins and wild things in Erin yelled in answer, so 
that with the terror and the uproar the host of men heaved and 


surged hither and thither, and many perished from each other's 
weapons, and many from horror and fear. And this was the great 
carnage, called the Carnage of Murthemney, that Cuchulain did 
to avenge the boy-corps of Emania; six score and ten princes 
were then slain of the host of Maev, besides horses and women 
and wolf-dogs and common folk without number. It is said that 
Lugh mac Ethlinn fought there by his son. 

The Clan Calatin 

Next the men of Erin resolved to send against Cuchulain, in 
single combat, the Clan Calatin. 152 Now Calatin was a wizard, 
and he and his seven-and-twenty sons formed, as it were, but one 
being, the sons being organs of their father, and what any one 
of them did they all did alike. They were all poisonous, so that 
any weapon which one of them used would kill in nine days the 
man who was but grazed by it. When this multiform creature met 
Cuchulain each hand of it hurled a spear at once, but Cuchulain 
caught the twenty-eight spears on his shield and not one of them 
drew blood. Then he drew his sword to lop off the spears that 
bristled from his shield, but as he did so the Clan Calatin rushed 
upon him and flung him down, thrusting his face into the gravel. 
At this Cuchulain gave a great cry of distress at the unequal 
combat, and one of the Ulster exiles, Fiacha son of Firaba, who [216] 
was with the host of Maev, and was looking on at the fight, could 
not endure to see the plight of the champion, and he drew his 
sword and with one stroke he lopped off the eight-and-twenty 
hands that were grinding the face of Cuchulain into the gravel of 
the Ford. Then Cuchulain arose and hacked the Clan Calatin into 
fragments, so that none survived to tell Maev what Fiacha had 
done, else had he and his thirty hundred followers of Clan Rury 
been given by Maev to the edge of the sword. 

Ferdia to the Fray 

152 "Clan" in Gaelic means children or offspring. Clan Calatin=the sons of 

1 82 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Cuchulain had now overcome all the mightiest of Maev's men, 
save only the mightiest of them all after Fergus, Ferdia son of 
Daman. And because Ferdia was the old friend and fellow pupil 
of Cuchulain he had never gone out against him; but now Maev 
begged him to go, and he would not. Then she offered him her 
daughter, Findabair of the Fair Eyebrows, to wife, if he would 
face Cuchulain at the Ford, but he would not. At last she bade 
him go, lest the poets and satirists of Erin should make verses on 
him and put him to open shame, and then in wrath and sorrow 
he consented to go, and bade his charioteer make ready for to- 
morrow's fray. Then was gloom among all his people when they 
heard of that, for they knew that if Cuchulain and their master 
met, one of them would return alive no more. 

Very early in the morning Ferdia drove to the Ford, and lay 
down there on the cushions and skins of the chariot and slept till 
Cuchulain should come. Not till it was full daylight did Ferdia's 
charioteer hear the thunder of Cuchulain's war-car approaching, 
and then he woke his master, and the two friends faced each 
[217] other across the Ford. And when they had greeted each other 

Cuchulain said: "It is not thou, O Ferdia, who shouldst have come 
to do battle with me. When we were with Skatha did we not go 
side by side in every battle, through every wood and wilderness? 
were we not heart-companions, comrades, in the feast and the 
assembly? did we not share one bed and one deep slumber?" 
But Ferdia replied: "O Cuchulain, thou of the wondrous feats, 
though we have studied poetry and science together, and though 
I have heard thee recite our deeds of friendship, yet it is my hand 
that shall wound thee. I bid thee remember not our comradeship, 
O Hound of Ulster; it shall not avail thee, it shall not avail thee." 

They then debated with what weapons they should begin the 
fight, and Ferdia reminded Cuchulain of the art of casting small 
javelins that they had learned from Skatha, and they agreed to 
begin with these. Backwards and forwards, then, across the Ford, 
hummed the light javelins like bees on a summer's day, but when 


noonday had come not one weapon had pierced the defence of 
either champion. Then they took to the heavy missile spears, and 
now at last blood began to flow, for each champion wounded 
the other time and again. At last the day came to its close. "Let 
us cease now," said Ferdia, and Cuchulain agreed. Each then 
threw his arms to his charioteer, and the friends embraced and 
kissed each other three times, and went to their rest. Their horses 
were in the same paddock, their drivers warmed themselves over 
the same fire, and the heroes sent each other food and drink and 
healing herbs for their wounds. 

Next day they betook themselves again to the Ford, and this 
time, because Ferdia had the choice of weapons the day before, he 
bade Cuchulain take it now. 153 Cuchulain chose then the heavy, [218] 
broad-bladed spears for close fighting, and with them they fought 
from the chariots till the sun went down, and drivers and horses 
were weary, and the body of each hero was torn with wounds. 
Then at last they gave over, and threw away their weapons. And 
they kissed each other as before, and as before they shared all 
things at night, and slept peacefully till the morning. 

When the third day of the combat came Ferdia wore an evil 
and lowering look, and Cuchulain reproached him for coming 
out in battle against his comrade for the bribe of a fair maiden, 
even Findabair, whom Maev had offered to every champion 
and to Cuchulain himself if the Ford might be won thereby; 
but Ferdia said: "Noble Hound, had I not faced thee when 

153 Together with much that is wild and barbaric in this Irish epic of the "Tain" 
the reader will be struck by the ideals of courtesy and gentleness which not 
infrequently come to light in it. It must be remembered that, as Mr. A.H. Leahy 
points out in his "Heroic Romances of Ireland," the legend of the Raid of 
Quelgny is, at the very latest, a century earlier than all other known romances 
of chivalry, Welsh or Continental. It is found in the "Book of Leinster," a 
manuscript of the twelfth century, as well as in other sources, and was doubtless 
considerably older than the date of its transcription there. "The whole thing," 
says Mr. Leahy, "stands at the very beginning of the literature of modern 

184 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

summoned, my troth would be broken, and there would be 
shame on me in Rathcroghan." It is now the turn of Ferdia to 
choose the weapons, and they betake themselves to their "heavy, 
hard-smiting swords," and though they hew from each other's 
thighs and shoulders great cantles of flesh, neither can prevail 
over the other, and at last night ends the combat. This time they 
parted from each other in heaviness and gloom, and there was 
no interchange of friendly acts, and their drivers and horses slept 
apart. The passions of the warriors had now risen to a grim 
[219] sternness. 

Death of Ferdia 

On the fourth day Ferdia knew the contest would be decided, 
and he armed himself with especial care. Next his skin was a 
tunic of striped silk bordered with golden spangles, and over that 
hung an apron of brown leather. Upon his belly he laid a flat 
stone, large as a millstone, and over that a strong, deep apron 
of iron, for he dreaded that Cuchulain would use the Gae Bolg 
that day. And he put on his head his crested helmet studded with 
carbuncle and inlaid with enamels, and girt on his golden-hilted 
sword, and on his left arm hung his broad shield with its fifty 
bosses of bronze. Thus he stood by the Ford, and as he waited 
he tossed up his weapons and caught them again and did many 
wonderful feats, playing with his mighty weapons as a juggler 
plays with apples; and Cuchulain, watching him, said to Laeg, 
his driver: "If I give ground to-day, do thou reproach and mock 
me and spur me on to valour, and praise and hearten me if I do 
well, for I shall have need of all my courage." 

"O Ferdia," said Cuchulain when they met, "what shall be our 
weapons to-day?" "It is thy choice to-day," said Ferdia. "Then 
let it be all or any," said Cuchulain, and Ferdia was cast down 
at hearing this, but he said, "So be it," and thereupon the fight 
began. Till midday they fought with spears, and none could gain 
any advantage over the other. Then Cuchulain drew his sword 
and sought to smite Ferdia over the rim of his shield; but the 


giant Firbolg flung him off. Thrice Cuchulain leaped high into 
the air, seeking to strike Ferdia over his shield, but each time 
as he descended Ferdia caught him upon the shield and flung 
him off like a little child into the Ford. And Laeg mocked him, 
crying: "He casts thee off as a river flings its foam, he grinds [220] 
thee as a millstone grinds a corn of wheat; thou elf, never call 
thyself a warrior." 

Then at last Cuchulain's frenzy came upon him, and he dilated 
giant-like, till he overtopped Ferdia, and the hero-light blazed 
about his head. In close contact the two were interlocked, 
whirling and trampling, while the demons and goblins and 
unearthly things of the glens screamed from the edges of their 
swords, and the waters of the Ford recoiled in terror from them, 
so that for a while they fought on dry land in the midst of the 
riverbed. And now Ferdia found Cuchulain a moment off his 
guard, and smote him with the edge of the sword, and it sank 
deep into his flesh, and all the river ran red with his blood. And 
he pressed Cuchulain sorely after that, hewing and thrusting so 
that Cuchulain could endure it no longer, and he shouted to Laeg 
to fling him the Gae Bolg. When Ferdia heard that he lowered 
his shield to guard himself from below, and Cuchulain drove his 
spear over the rim of the shield and through his breastplate into 
his chest. And Ferdia raised his shield again, but in that moment 
Cuchulain seized the Gae Bolg in his toes and drove it upward 
against Ferdia, and it pierced through the iron apron and burst in 
three the millstone that guarded him, and deep into his body it 
passed, so that every crevice and cranny of him was filled with 
its barbs. "Tis enough," cried Ferdia; "I have my death of that. 
It is an ill deed that I fall by thy hand, O Cuchulain." Cuchulain 
seized him as he fell, and carried him northward across the Ford, 
that he might die on the further side of it, and not on the side 
of the men of Erin. Then he laid him down, and a faintness 
seized Cuchulain, and he was falling, when Laeg cried: "Rise 
up, Cuchulain, for the host of Erin will be upon us. No single 

186 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

combat will they give after Ferdia has fallen." But Cuchulain 
[221] said: "Why should I rise again, O my servant, now he that lieth 

here has fallen by my hand?" and he fell in a swoon like death. 
And the host of Maev with tumult and rejoicing, with tossing of 
spears and shouting of war-songs, poured across the border into 

But before they left the Ford they took the body of Ferdia 
and laid it in a grave, and built a mound over him and set up 
a pillar-stone with his name and lineage in Ogham. And from 
Ulster came certain of the friends of Cuchulain, and they bore 
him away into Murthemney, where they washed him and bathed 
his wounds in the streams, and his kin among the Danaan folk 
cast magical herbs into the rivers for his healing. But he lay there 
in weakness and in stupor for many days. 

The Rousing of Ulster 

Now Sualtam, the father of Cuchulain, had taken his son's 
horse, the Grey of Macha, and ridden off again to see if by any 
means he might rouse the men of Ulster to defend the province. 
And he went crying abroad: "The men of Ulster are being slain, 
the women carried captive, the kine driven!" Yet they stared on 
him stupidly, as though they knew not of what he spake. At 
last he came to Emania, and there were Cathbad the Druid and 
Conor the King, and all their nobles and lords, and Sualtam cried 
aloud to them: "The men of Ulster are being slain, the women 
carried captive, the kine driven; and Cuchulain alone holds the 
gap of Ulster against the four provinces of Erin. Arise and defend 
yourselves!" But Cathbad only said: "Death were the due of him 
who thus disturbs the King"; and Conor said: "Yet it is true what 
the man says"; and the lords of Ulster wagged their heads and 
murmured: "True indeed it is." 
[222] Then Sualtam wheeled round his horse in anger and was about 

to depart when, with a start which the Grey made, his neck fell 
against the sharp rim of the shield upon his back, and it shore 
off his head, and the head fell on the ground. Yet still it cried its 


message as it lay, and at last Conor bade put it on a pillar that it 
might be at rest. But it still went on crying and exhorting, and 
at length into the clouded mind of the king the truth began to 
penetrate, and the glazed eyes of the warriors began to glow, and 
slowly the spell of Macha's curse was lifted from their minds and 
bodies. Then Conor arose and swore a mighty oath, saying: "The 
heavens are above us and the earth beneath us, and the sea is 
round about us; and surely, unless the heavens fall on us and the 
earth gape to swallow us up, and the sea overwhelm the earth, 
I will restore every woman to her hearth, and every cow to its 
byre." 154 His Druid proclaimed that the hour was propitious, and 
the king bade his messengers go forth on every side and summon 
Ulster to arms, and he named to them warriors long dead as well 
as the living, for the cloud of the curse still lingered in his brain. 
With the curse now departed from them the men of Ulster 
flocked joyfully to the summons, and on every hand there was 
grinding of spears and swords, and buckling on of armour and 
harnessing of war-chariots for the rising-out of the province. 155 
One host came under Conor the King and Keltchar, son of 
Uthecar Hornskin, from Emania southwards, and another from 
the west along the very track of the host of Maev. And Conor's 
host fell upon eight score of the men of Erin in Meath, who [223] 
were carrying away a great booty of women-captives, and they 
slew every man of the eight score and rescued the women. Maev 
and her host then fell back toward Connacht, but when they 
reached Slemon Midi, the Hill of Slane, in Meath, the Ulster 
bands joined each other there and prepared to give battle. Maev 
sent her messenger mac Roth to view the Ulster host on the 
Plain of Garach and report upon it. Mac Roth came back with 
an awe-striking description of what he beheld. When he first 

154 Another instance of the survival of the oath formula recited by the Celtic 
envoys to Alexander the Great. See p. 23. 

155 "Rising-out" is the vivid expression used by Irish writers for a clan or 
territory going on the war-path. "Hosting" is also used in a similar sense. 

188 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

looked he saw the plain covered with deer and other wild beasts. 
These, explains Fergus, had been driven out of the forests by the 
advancing host of the Ulster men. The second time mac Roth 
looked he saw a mist that filled the valleys, the hill-tops standing 
above it like islands. Out of the mist there came thunder and 
flashes of light, and a wind that nearly threw him off his feet. 
"What is this?" asks Maev, and Fergus tells her that the mist is 
the deep breathing of the warriors as they march, and the light 
is the flashing of their eyes, and the thunder is the clangour of 
their war-cars and the clash of their weapons as they go to the 
fight: "They think they will never reach it," says Fergus. "We 
have warriors to meet them," says Maev. "You will need that," 
says Fergus, "for in all Ireland, nay, in all the Western world, to 
Greece and Scythia and the Tower of Bregon 156 and the Island 
of Gades, there live not who can face the men of Ulster in their 

A long passage then follows describing the appearance and 
equipment of each of the Ulster chiefs. 

The Battle of Garach 

The battle was joined on the Plain of Garach, in Meath. Fergus, 

[224] wielding a two-handed sword, the sword which, it was said, when 

swung in battle made circles like the arch of a rainbow, swept 

down whole ranks of the Ulster men at each blow, 157 and the 

fierce Maev charged thrice into the heart of the enemy. 

Fergus met Conor the King, and smote him on his golden- 
bordered shield, but Cormac, the king's son, begged for his 
father's life. Fergus then turned on Conall of the Victories. 

"Too hot art thou," said Conall, "against thy people and 
thy race for a wanton." 158 Fergus then turned from slaying the 

156 Seep. 130. 

157 The sword of Fergus was a fairy weapon called the Caladcholg (hard 
dinter), a name of which Arthur's more famous "Excalibur" is a Latinised 


Ulstermen, but in his battle-fury he smote among the hills with 
his rainbow-sword, and struck off the tops of the three Maela of 
Meath, so that they are flat-topped (mad) to this day. 

Cuchulain in his stupor heard the crash of Fergus's blows, and 
coming slowly to himself he asked of Laeg what it meant. "It is 
the sword-play of Fergus," said Laeg. Then he sprang up, and 
his body dilated so that the wrappings and swathings that had 
been bound on him flew off, and he armed himself and rushed 
into the battle. Here he met Fergus. "Turn hither, Fergus," he 
shouted; "I will wash thee as foam in a pool, I will go over thee 
as the tail goes over a cat, I will smite thee as a mother smites 
her infant." "Who speaks thus to me?" cried Fergus. "Cuchulain 
mac Sualtam; and now do thou avoid me as thou art pledged." 

"I have promised even that," said Fergus, and then went out 
of the battle, and with him the men of Leinster and the men of 
Munster, leaving Maev with her seven sons and the hosting of 
Connacht alone. [225] 

It was midday when Cuchulain came into the fight; when 
the evening sun was shining through the leaves of the trees his 
war-chariot was but two wheels and a handful of shattered ribs, 
and the host of Connacht was in full flight towards the border. 
Cuchulain overtook Maev, who crouched under her chariot and 
entreated grace. "I am not wont to slay women," said Cuchulain, 
and he protected her till she had crossed the Shannon at Athlone. 

The Fight of the Bulls 

But the Brown Bull of Quelgny, that Maev had sent into 
Connacht by a circuitous way, met the white-horned Bull of 
Ailell on the Plain of Aei, and the two beasts fought; but the 
Brown Bull quickly slew the other, and tossed his fragments about 
the land so that pieces of him were strewn from Rathcroghan to 
Tara; and then careered madly about till he fell dead, bellowing 
and vomiting black gore, at the Ridge of the Bull, between Ulster 

159 Seep. 211. 

190 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

and Iveagh. Ailell and Maev made peace with Ulster for seven 
years, and the Ulster men returned home to Emain Macha with 
great glory. 

Thus ends the "Tain Bo Cuailgne," or Cattle Raid of Quelgny; 
and it was written out in the "Book of Leinster" in the year 1 150 
by the hand of Finn mac Gorman, Bishop of Kildare, and at the 
end is written: "A blessing on all such as faithfully shall recite 
the 'Tain' as it stands here, and shall not give it in any other 

Cuchulain in Fairyland 

One of the strangest tales in Celtic legend tells how Cuchulain, 
as he lay asleep after hunting, against a pillar-stone, had a vision 
of two Danaan women who came to him armed with rods and 
[226] alternately beat him till he was all but dead, and he could not lift 

a hand to defend himself. Next day, and for a year thereafter, he 
lay in sore sickness, and none could heal him. 

Then a man whom none knew came and told him to go to the 
pillar-stone where he had seen the vision, and he would learn 
what was to be done for his recovery. There he found a Danaan 
woman in a green mantle, one of those who had chastised him, 
and she told him that Fand, the Pearl of Beauty, wife of Mananan 
the Sea-god, had set her love on him; and she was at enmity 
with her husband Mananan; and her realm was besieged by three 
demon kings, against whom Cuchulain's help was sought, and the 
price of his help would be the love of Fand. Laeg, the charioteer, 
was then sent by Cuchulain to report upon Fand and her message. 
He entered Fairyland, which lies beyond a lake across which he 
passed in a magic boat of bronze, and came home with a report 
of Fand's surpassing beauty and the wonders of the kingdom; and 
Cuchulain then betook himself thither. Here he had a battle in 
a dense mist with the demons, who are described as resembling 
sea-waves — no doubt we are to understand that they are the folk 
of the angry husband, Mananan. Then he abode with Fand, 
enjoying all the delights of Fairyland for a month, after which 


he bade her farewell, and appointed a trysting-place on earth, the 
Strand of the Yew Tree, where she was to meet him. 

Fand, Emer, and Cuchulain 

But Emer heard of the tryst; and though not commonly 
disturbed at Cuchulain's numerous infidelities, she came on this 
occasion with fifty of her maidens armed with sharp knives to 
slay Fand. Cuchulain and Fand perceive their chariots from afar, 
and the armed angry women with golden clasps shining on their [227] 
breasts, and he prepares to protect his mistress. He addresses 
Emer in a curious poem, describing the beauty and skill and 
magical powers of Fand — "There is nothing the spirit can wish 
for that she has not got." Emer replies: "In good sooth, the lady 
to whom thou dost cling seems in no way better than I am, but 
the new is ever sweet and the well-known is sour; thou hast all 
the wisdom of the time, Cuchulain! Once we dwelled in honour 
together, and still might dwell if I could find favour in thy sight." 
"By my word thou dost," said Cuchulain, "and shalt find it so 
long as I live." 

"Give me up," then said Fand. But Emer said: "Nay, it is more 
fitting that I be the deserted one." "Not so," said Fand; "it is I 
who must go." "And an eagerness for lamentation seized upon 
Fand, and her soul was great within her, for it was shame for her 
to be deserted and straightway to return to her home; moreover, 
the mighty love that she bore to Cuchulain was tumultuous in 
her." 160 

But Mananan, the Son of the Sea, knew of her sorrow and her 
shame, and he came to her aid, none seeing him but she alone, 
and she welcomed him in a mystic song. "Wilt thou return to 
me?" said Mananan, "or abide with Cuchulain?" "In truth," said 
Fand, "neither of ye is better or nobler than the other, but I will 
go with thee, Mananan, for thou hast no other mate worthy of 
thee, but that Cuchulain has in Emer." 

160 A.H. Leahy's translation, "Heroic Romances of Ireland," vol. i. 

192 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

So she went to Mananan, and Cuchulain, who did not see the 
god, asked Laeg what was happening. "Fand," he replied, "is 
going away with the Son of the Sea, since she hath not been 
[228] pleasing in thy sight." 

Then Cuchulain bounded into the air and fled from the place, 
and lay a long time refusing meat and drink, until at last the 
Druids gave him a draught of forgetfulness; and Mananan, it is 
said, shook his cloak between Cuchulain and Fand, so that they 
might meet no more throughout eternity. 161 

The Vengeance of Maev 

Though Maev made peace with Ulster after the battle of 
Garech she vowed the death of Cuchulain for all the shame and 
loss he had brought upon her and on her province, and she sought 
how she might take her vengeance upon him. 

Now the wife of the wizard Calatin, whom Cuchulain slew at 
the Ford, brought forth, after her husband's death, six children 
at a birth, namely, three sons and three daughters. Misshapen, 
hideous, poisonous, born for evil were they; and Maev, hearing 
of these, sent them to learn the arts of magic, not in Ireland only, 
but in Alba; and even as far as Babylon they went to seek for 
hidden knowledge, and they came back mighty in their craft, and 
she loosed them against Cuchulain. 

Cuchulain and Blanid 

Besides the Clan Calatin, Cuchulain had also other foes, 
namely Ere, the King of Ireland, son to Cairpre, whom Cuchulain 
had slain in battle, and Lewy son of Curoi, King of Munster. 
For Curoi's wife, Blanid, had set her love on Cuchulain, and she 
bade him come and take her from Curoi's dun, and watch his 
[229] time to attack the dun, when he would see the stream that flowed 

from it turn white. So Cuchulain and his men waited in a wood 

161 The cloak of Mananan (see p. 125) typifies the sea — here, in its dividing 
and estranging power. 

This Curoi appears in various tales of the Ultonian Cycle with attributes 
which show that he was no mortal king, but a local deity. 


hard by till Blanid judged that the time was fit, and she then 
poured into the stream the milk of three cows. Then Cuchulain 
attacked the dun, and took it by surprise, and slew Curoi, and 
bore away the woman. But Fercartna, the bard of Curoi, went 
with them and showed no sign, till, finding himself near Blanid 
as she stood near the cliff-edge of Beara, he flung his arms round 
her, and leaped with her over the cliff, and so they perished, and 
Curoi was avenged upon his wife. 

All these now did Maev by secret messages and by taunts and 
exhortations arouse against Cuchulain, and they waited till they 
heard that the curse of Macha was again heavy on the men of 
Ulster, and then they assembled a host and marched to the Plain 
of Murthemney. 

The Madness of Cuchulain 

And first the Children of Calatin caused a horror and a 
despondency to fall upon the mind of Cuchulain, and out of the 
hooded thistles and puff-balls and fluttering leaves of the forest 
they made the semblance of armed battalions marching against 
Murthemney, and Cuchulain seemed to see on every side the 
smoke of burning dwellings going up. And for two days he 
did battle with the phantoms till he was sick and wearied out. 
Then Cathbad and the men of Ulster persuaded him to retire to a 
solitary glen, where fifty of the princesses of Ulster, and among 
them Niam, wife of his faithful friend Conall of the Victories, 
tended him, and Niam made him vow that he would not leave 
the dun where he was until she gave him leave. 

But still the Children of Calatin filled the land with apparitions 
of war, and smoke and flames went up, and wild cries and wailings [230] 
with chattering, goblin laughter and the braying of trumpets and 
horns were borne upon the winds. And Bave, Calatin's daughter, 
went into the glen, and, taking the form of a handmaid of Niam, 
she beckoned her away and led her to a distance among the 
woods and put a spell of straying on her so that she was lost and 
could find her way home no more. Bave then went in the form of 

194 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Niam to Cuchulain and bade him up and rescue Ulster from the 
hosts that were harrying it, and the Morrigan came in the form of 
a great crow where Cuchulain sat with the women, and croaked 
of war and slaughter. Then Cuchulain sprang up and called Laeg 
to harness his chariot. But when Laeg sought for the Grey of 
Macha to harness him, the horse fled from him, and resisted, and 
only with great difficulty could Laeg yoke him in the chariot, 
while large tears of dark blood trickled down his face. 

Then Cuchulain, having armed himself, drove forth; and on 
every side shapes and sounds of dread assailed him and clouded 
his mind, and then it appeared to him that he saw a great smoke, 
lit with bursts of red flame, over the ramparts of Emain Macha, 
and he thought he saw the corpse of Emer tossed out over the 
ramparts. But when he came to his dun at Murthemney, there 
was Emer living, and she entreated him to leave the phantoms 
alone, but he would not listen to her, and he bade her farewell. 
Then he bade farewell to his mother Dectera, and she gave him a 
goblet of wine to drink, but ere he could drink it the wine turned 
to blood, and he flung it away, saying, "My life's end is near; 
this time I shall not return alive from the battle." And Dectera 
and Cathbad besought him to await the coming of Conall of the 
[231] Victories, who was away on a journey, but he would not. 

The Washer at the Ford 

When he came to the ford upon the plain of Emania he saw 
there kneeling by the stream as it were a young maiden, weeping 
and wailing, and she washed a heap of bloody raiment and 
warlike arms in the stream, and when she raised a dripping vest 
or corselet from the water Cuchulain saw that they were his own. 
And as they crossed the ford she vanished from their sight. 163 

Clan Calatin Again 

Then, having taken his leave of Conor and of the womenfolk 
in Emania, he turned again towards Murthemney and the foe. But 

163 This apparition of the Washer of the Ford is of frequent occurrence in Irish 


on his way he saw by the roadside three old crones, each blind of 
one eye, hideous and wretched, and they had made a little fire of 
sticks, and over it they were roasting a dead dog on spits of rowan 
wood. As Cuchulain passed they called to him to alight and stay 
with them and share their food. "That will I not, in sooth," said 
he. "Had we a great feast," they said, "thou wouldst soon have 
stayed; it doth not become the great to despise the small." Then 
Cuchulain, because he would not be thought discourteous to the 
wretched, lighted down, and he took a piece of the roast and ate 
it, and the hand with which he took it was stricken up to the 
shoulder so that its former strength was gone. For it was geis to 
Cuchulain to approach a cooking hearth and take food from it, 
and it was geis to him to eat of his namesake. 164 [232] 

Death of Cuchulain 

Near to Slieve Fuad, south of Armagh, Cuchulain found the 
host of his enemies, and drove furiously against them, plying the 
champion's "thunder-feat" upon them until the plain was strewn 
with their dead. Then a satirist, urged on by Lewy, came near 
him and demanded his spear. 165 "Have it, then," said Cuchulain, 
and flung it at him with such force that it went clean through him 
and killed nine men beyond. "A king will fall by that spear," said 
the Children of Calatin to Lewy, and Lewy seized it and flung it 
at Cuchulain, but it smote Laeg, the king of charioteers, so that 
his bowels fell out on the cushions of the chariot, and he bade 
farewell to his master and he died. 

Then another satirist demanded the spear, and Cuchulain said: 
"I am not bound to grant more than one request on one day." But 
the satirist said: "Then I will revile Ulster for thy default," and 
Cuchulain flung him the spear as before, and Ere now got it, and 
this time in flying back it struck the Grey of Macha with a mortal 

164 See p. 164 for the reference to geis. "His namesake" refers, of course, to 
the story of the Hound of Cullan, pp. 183, 184. 

165 It was a point of honour to refuse nothing to a bard; one king is said to 
have given his eye when it was demanded of him. 

196 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

wound. Cuchulain drew out the spear from the horse's side, and 
they bade each other farewell, and the Grey galloped away with 
half the yoke hanging to its neck. 

And a third time Cuchulain flung the spear to a satirist, and 
Lewy took it again and flung it back, and it struck Cuchulain, 
and his bowels fell out in the chariot, and the remaining horse, 
Black Sainglend, broke away and left him. 

"I would fain go as far as to that loch-side to drink," said 
Cuchulain, knowing the end was come, and they suffered him to 
go when he had promised to return to them again. So he gathered 
[233] up his bowels into his breast and went to the loch-side, and drank, 

and bathed himself, and came forth again to die. Now there was 
close by a tall pillar-stone that stood westwards of the loch, and 
he went up to it and slung his girdle over it and round his breast, 
so that he might die in his standing and not in his lying down; 
and his blood ran down in a little stream into the loch, and an 
otter came out of the loch and lapped it. And the host gathered 
round, but feared to approach him while the life was still in him, 
and the hero-light shone above his brow. Then came the Grey of 
Macha to protect him, scattering his foes with biting and kicking. 

And then came a crow and settled on his shoulder. 

Lewy, when he saw this, drew near and pulled the hair of 
Cuchulain to one side over his shoulder, and with his sword he 
smote off his head; and the sword fell from Cuchulain's hand, 
and smote off the hand of Lewy as it fell. They took the hand of 
Cuchulain in revenge for this, and bore the head and hand south to 
Tara, and there buried them, and over them they raised a mound. 
But Conall of the Victories, hastening to Cuchulain's side on the 
news of the war, met the Grey of Macha streaming with blood, 
and together they went to the loch-side and saw him headless and 
bound to the pillar-stone, and the horse came and laid its head on 
his breast. Conall drove southwards to avenge Cuchulain, and he 
came on Lewy by the river Liffey, and because Lewy had but one 
hand Conall tied one of his behind his back, and for half the day 


they fought, but neither could prevail. Then came Conall's horse, 
the Dewy-Red, and tore a piece out of Lewy's side, and Conall 
slew him, and took his head, and returned to Emain Macha. But 
they made no show of triumph in entering the city, for Cuchulain 
the Hound of Ulster was no more. [234] 

The Recovery of the Tain 

The history of the "Tain," or Cattle Raid, of Quelgny was 
traditionally supposed to have been written by no other than 
Fergus mac Roy, but for a long time the great lay or saga was 
lost. It was believed to have been written out in Ogham characters 
on staves of wood, which a bard who possessed them had taken 
with him into Italy, whence they never returned. 

The recovery of the "Tain" was the subject of a number of 
legends which Sir S. Ferguson, in his "Lays of the Western 
Gael," has combined in a poem of so much power, so much 
insight into the spirit of Gaelic myth, that I venture to reproduce 
much of it here in telling this singular and beautiful story. It is 
said that after the loss of the "Tain" Sanchan Torpest, chief bard 
of Ireland, was once taunted at a feast by the High King Guary 
on his inability to recite the most famous and splendid of Gaelic 
poems. This touched the bard to the quick, and he resolved to 
recover the lost treasure. Far and wide through Erin and through 
Alba he searched for traces of the lay, but could only recover 
scattered fragments. He would have conjured up by magic arts 
the spirit of Fergus to teach it to him, even at the cost of his own 
life — for such, it seems, would have been the price demanded for 
the intervention and help of the dead — but the place of Fergus's 
grave, where the spells must be said, could not be discovered. 
At last Sanchan sent his son Murgen with his younger brother 
Eimena to journey to Italy and endeavour to discover there the 
fate of the staff -book. The brothers set off on their journey. 

"Eastward, breadthwise, over Erin straightway travell'd forth the 
Till with many days' wayfaring Murgen fainted by Loch Ein: 


198 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

'Dear my brother, thou art weary: I for present aid am flown: 
Thou for my returning tarry here beside this Standing Stone.' 

"Shone the sunset red and solemn: Murgen,where he 
Down the corners of the column letter-strokes of Ogham 

"Tis, belike, a burial pillar,' said he, 'and these shallow lines 
Hold some warrior's name of valour, could I rightly spell the 

"Letter then by letter tracing, soft he breathed the sound of each; 
Sound and sound then interlacing, lo, the signs took form of 

And with joy and wonder mainly thrilling, part a-thrill with 

Murgen read the legend plainly, 'FERGUS SON OF ROY IS 


Murgen then, though he knew the penalty, appealed to Fergus 
to pity a son's distress, and vowed, for the sake of the recovery of 
the "Tain," to give his life, and abandon his kin and friends and 
the maiden he loves, so that his father might no more be shamed. 
But Fergus gave no sign, and Murgen tried another plea: 

"Still he stirs not. Love of women thou regard' st not, Fergus, 
Love of children, instincts human, care for these no more hast 

Wider comprehension, deeper insights to the dead belong: — 
Since for Love thou wak'st not, Sleeper, yet awake for sake of 


" 'Thou, the first in rhythmic cadence dressing life's discordant 

Wars of chiefs and loves of maidens, gavest the Poem to the 

Now they've lost their noblest measure, and in dark days hard 

at hand, 
Song shall be the only treasure left them in their native land.' 

"Fergus rose. A mist ascended with him, and a flash was seen 
As of brazen sandals blended with a mantle's wafture green; 
But so thick the cloud closed o'er him, Eimena, return'd at last, 
Found not on the field before him but a mist-heap grey and 

"Thrice to pierce the hoar recesses faithful Eimena essay'd; 
Thrice through foggy wildernesses back to open air he stray'd; 
Till a deep voice through the vapours fill'd the twilight far and 

And the Night her starry tapers kindling, stoop'd from heaven 

to hear. 

"Seem'd as though the skiey Shepherd back to earth had cast the 
Envying gods of old caught upward from the darkening shrines 

of Greece; 
So the white mists curl'd and glisten'd, to from heaven's 

expanses bare, 
Stars enlarging lean'd and listen'd down the emptied depths of 

"All night long by mists surrounded Murgen lay in vapoury bars; 
All night long the deep voice sounded 'neath the keen, 

enlarging stars: 
But when, on the orient verges, stars grew dim and mists 

Rising by the stone of Fergus, Murgen stood a man inspired. 


200 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

" 'Back to Sanchan! — Father, hasten, ere the hour of power be 
Ask not how obtain'd but listen to the lost lay found at last!' 
'Yea, these words have tramp of heroes in them; and the 

marching rhyme 
Rolls the voices of the eras down the echoing steeps of Time.' 

"Not till all was thrice related, thrice recital full essay'd, 
Sad and shamefaced, worn and faded, Murgen sought the 

faithful maid. 
'Ah, so haggard; ah, so altered; thou in life and love so strong!' 
'Dearly purchased,' Murgen falter'd, 'life and love I've sold for 

song ! ' 

" 'Woe is me, the losing bargain! what can song the dead avail?' 
'Fame immortal,' murmur'd Murgen, 'long as lay delights the 

'Fame, alas! the price thou chargest not repays one virgin tear.' 
'Yet the proud revenge I've purchased for my sire, I deem not 


" 'So,again to Gort the splendid, when the drinking boards were 
Sanchan, as of old attended, came and sat at table-head. 
'Bear the cup to Sanchan Torpest: twin gold goblets, Bard, are 

If with voice and string thou harpest, Tain-Bo-Cuailgne, line 
for line. ' 

" 'Yea, with voice and string I'll chant it. Murgen to his father's 
Set the harp: no prelude wanted, Sanchan struck the master 

And, as bursts the brimful river all at once from caves of Cong, 
Forth at once, and once for ever, leap'd the torrent of the song. 


"Floating on a brimful torrent, men go down and banks go by: 
Caught adown the lyric current, Guary, captured, ear and eye, 
Heard no more the courtiers jeering, saw no more the walls of 

Creeve Roe's 166 meads instead appearing, and Emania's royal 


"Vision chasing splendid vision, Sanchan roll'd the rhythmic 

They that mock'd in lewd derision now, at gaze, with wondering 

Sate, and, as the glorying master sway'd the tightening reins of 

Felt emotion's pulses faster — fancies faster bound along. 

"Pity dawn'd on savage faces, when for love of captive Crunn, 
Macha, in the ransom-races, girt her gravid loins, to run 
'Gainst the fleet Ultonian horses; and, when Deirdra on the road 
Headlong dash'd her 'mid the corses, brimming eyelids 

"Light of manhood's generous ardour, under brows relaxing 

When, mid-ford, on Uladh's border, young Cuchullin stood 

Maev and all her hosts withstanding: — 'Now, for love of 

knightly play, 
Yield the youth his soul's demanding; let the hosts their 

marchings stay, 


202 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"Till the death he craves be given; and, upon his burial stone 
Champion-praises duly graven, make his name and glory 

For, in speech-containing token, age to ages never gave 
Salutation better spoken, than, "Behold a hero's grave.'" 

"What, another and another, and he still or combat calls? 
Ah, the lot on thee, his brother sworn in arms, Ferdia, falls; 
And the hall with wild applauses sobb'd like woman ere they 

When the champions in the pauses of the deadly combat kiss'd. 

"Now, for love of land and cattle, while Cuchullin in the fords 
Stays the march of Connaught's battle, ride and rouse the 

Northern Lords; 
Swift as angry eagles wing them toward the plunder'd eyrie's 

Thronging from Dun Dealga bring them, bring them from the 

Red Branch hall! 

"Heard ye not the tramp of armies? Hark! amid the sudden 

Twas the stroke of Conall's war-mace sounded through the 

startled room; 
And, while still the hall grew darker, king and courtier chill'd 

with dread, 
Heard the rattling of the war-car of Cuchullin overhead. 

"Half in wonder, half in terror, loth to stay and loth to fly, 
Seem'd to each beglamour'd hearer shades of kings went 

thronging by: 
But the troubled joy of wonder merged at last in mastering fear, 
As they heard through pealing thunder, 'Fergus son of Roy is 



"Brazen-sandall'd, vapour-shrouded, moving in an icy blast, 
Through the doorway terror-crowded, up the tables Fergus 

pass'd: — 
'Stay thy hand, oh harper, pardon! cease the wild unearthly lay! 
Murgen, bear thy sire his guerdon.' Murgen sat, a shape of clay. 

" 'Bear him on his bier beside me: never more in halls of Gort 
Shall a niggard king deride me: slaves, of Sanchan make their 

But because the maiden's yearnings needs must also be 

Hers shall be the dear-bought earnings, hers the twin-bright 

cups of gold.' 

" 'Cups,' she cried, 'of bitter drinking, fling them far as arm can 

throw ! ' 
Let them in the ocean sinking, out of sight and memory go ! 
Let the joinings of the rhythm, let the links of sense and sound 
Of the Tain-Bo perish with them, lost as though they'd ne'er 

been found!' 

"So it comes, the lay, recover'd once at such a deadly cost, 
Ere one full recital suffer'd, once again is all but lost: 
For, the maiden's malediction still with many a blemish-stain 
Clings in coarser garb of fiction round the fragments that 

204 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The Phantom Chariot of Cuchulain 

Cuchulain, however, makes an impressive reappearance in 
a much later legend of Christian origin, found in the twelfth- 
century "Book of the Dun Cow." He was summoned from Hell, 
we are told, by St. Patrick to prove the truths of Christianity and [239] 
the horrors of damnation to the pagan monarch, Laery mac Neill, 
King of Ireland. Laery, with St. Benen, a companion of Patrick, 
are standing on the Plain of mac Indoc when a blast of icy wind 
nearly takes them off their feet. It is the wind of Hell, Benen 
explains, after its opening before Cuchulain. Then a dense mist 
covers the plain, and anon a huge phantom chariot with galloping 
horses, a grey and a black, loom up through the mist. Within it 
are the famous two, Cuchulain and his charioteer, giant figures, 
armed with all the splendour of the Gaelic warrior. 

Cuchulain then talks to Laery, and urges him to "believe in 
God and in holy Patrick, for it is not a demon that has come 
to thee, but Cuchulain son of Sualtam." To prove his identity 
he recounts his famous deeds of arms, and ends by a piteous 
description of his present state: 

"What I suffered of trouble, 
O Laery, by sea and land — 
Yet more severe was a single night 
When the demon was wrathful ! 
Great as was my heroism, 
Hard as was my sword, 
The devil crushed me with one finger 
Into the red charcoal!" 

He ends by beseeching Patrick that heaven may be granted to 
him, and the legend tells that the prayer was granted and that 
Laery believed. 

Death of Conor mac Nessa 

Christian ideas have also gathered round the end of Cuchulain's 
lord, King Conor of Ulster. The manner of his death was as 


follows: An unjust and cruel attack had been made by him on 
Mesgedra, King of Leinster, in which that monarch met his death [240] 
at the hand of Conall of the Victories. 167 Conall took out the 
brains of the dead king and mingled them with lime to make 
a sling-stone — such "brain balls," as they were called, being 
accounted the most deadly of missiles. This ball was laid up in 
the king's treasure-house at Emain Macha, where the Connacht 
champion, Ket son of Maga, found it one day when prowling in 
disguise through Ulster. Ket took it away and kept it always by 
him. Not long thereafter the Connacht men took a spoil of cattle 
from Ulster, and the Ulster men, under Conor, overtook them at 
a river-ford still called Athnurchar (The Ford of the Sling-cast), 
in Westmeath. A battle was imminent, and many of the ladies 
of Connacht came to their side of the river to view the famous 
Ultonian warriors, and especially Conor, the stateliest man of his 
time. Conor was willing to show himself, and seeing none but 
women on the other bank he drew near them; but Ket, who was 
lurking in ambush, now rose and slung the brain-ball at Conor, 
striking him full in the forehead. Conor fell, and was carried off 
by his routed followers. When they got him home, still living, 
to Emain Macha, his physician, Fingen, pronounced that if the 
ball were extracted from his head he must die; it was accordingly 
sewn up with golden thread, and the king was bidden to keep 
himself from horse-riding and from all vehement passion and 
exertion, and he would do well. 

Seven years afterwards Conor saw the sun darken at noonday, 
and he summoned his Druid to tell him the cause of the portent. 
The Druid, in a magic trance, tells him of a hill in a distant 
land on which stand three crosses with a human form nailed to 
each of them, and one of them is like the Immortals. "Is he 
a malefactor?" then asks Conor. "Nay," says the Druid, "but [241] 
the Son of the living God," and he relates to the king the story 

167 The story is told in full in the author's "High Deeds of Finn.' 

206 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

of the death of Christ. Conor breaks out in fury, and drawing 
his sword he hacks at the oak-trees in the sacred grove, crying, 
"Thus would I deal with his enemies," when with the excitement 
and exertion the brain-ball bursts from his head, and he falls 
dead. And thus was the vengeance of Mesgedra fulfilled. With 
Conor and with Cuchulain the glory of the Red Branch and the 
dominance of Ulster passed away. The next, or Ossianic, cycle of 
Irish legend brings upon the scene different characters, different 
physical surroundings, and altogether different ideals of life. 

Ket and the Boar of mac Datho 

The Connacht champion Ket, whose main exploit was the 
wounding of King Conor at Ardnurchar, figures also in a very 
dramatic tale entitled "The Carving of mac Datho's Boar." The 
story runs as follows: 

Once upon a time there dwelt in the province of Leinster a 
wealthy hospitable lord named Mesroda, son of Datho. Two 
possessions had he; namely, a hound which could outrun every 
other hound and every wild beast in Erin, and a boar which was 
the finest and greatest in size that man had ever beheld. 

Now the fame of this hound was noised all about the land, and 
many were the princes and lords who longed to possess it. And 
it came to pass that Conor King of Ulster and Maev Queen of 
Connacht sent messengers to mac Datho to ask him to sell them 
the hound for a price, and both the messengers arrived at the dun 
of mac Datho on the same day. Said the Connacht messenger: 
"We will give thee in exchange for the hound six hundred milch 
cows, and a chariot with two horses, the best that are to be found 
[242] in Connacht, and at the end of a year thou shalt have as much 

again." And the messenger of King Conor said: "We will give 
no less than Connacht, and the friendship and alliance of Ulster, 
and that will be better for thee than the friendship of Connacht." 

Then Mesroda mac Datho fell silent, and for three days he 
would not eat or drink, nor could he sleep o' nights, but tossed 
restlessly on his bed. His wife observed his condition, and said 


to him: "Thy fast hath been long, Mesroda, though good food is 
by thee in plenty; and at night thou turnest thy face to the wall, 
and well I know thou dost not sleep. What is the cause of thy 

"There is a saying," replied Mac Datho, "Trust not a thrall 
with money, nor a woman with a secret.'" 

"When should a man talk to a woman," said his wife, "but 
when something were amiss? What thy mind cannot solve 
perchance another's may." 

Then mac Datho told his wife of the request for his hound 
both from Ulster and from Connacht at one and the same time. 
"And whichever of them I deny," he said, "they will harry my 
cattle and slay my people." 

"Then hear my counsel," said the woman. "Give it to both 
of them, and bid them come and fetch it; and if there be any 
harrying to be done, let them even harry each other; but in no 
way mayest thou keep the hound." 

Mac Datho followed this wise counsel, and bade both Ulster 
and Connacht to a great feast on the same day, saying to each of 
them that they could have the hound afterwards. 

So on the appointed day Conor of Ulster, and Maev, and their 
retinues of princes and mighty men assembled at the dun of mac 
Datho. There they found a great feast set forth, and to provide 
the chief dish mac Datho had killed his famous boar, a beast of [243] 
enormous size. The question now arose as to who should have 
the honourable task of carving it, and Bricriu of the Poisoned 
Tongue characteristically, for the sake of the strife which he 
loved, suggested that the warriors of Ulster and Connacht should 
compare their principal deeds of arms, and give the carving of the 
boar to him who seemed to have done best in the border-fighting 
which was always going on between the provinces. After much 
bandying of words and of taunts Ket son of Maga arises and 
stands over the boar, knife in hand, challenging each of the 
Ulster lords to match his deeds of valour. One after another 

208 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

they arise, Cuscrid son of Conor, Keltchar, Moonremur, Laery 
the Triumphant, and others — Cuchulain is not introduced in this 
story — and in each case Ket has some biting tale to tell of an 
encounter in which he has come off better than they, and one 
by one they sit down shamed and silenced. At last a shout of 
welcome is heard at the door of the hall and the Ulstermen grow 
jubilant: Conall of the Victories has appeared on the scene. He 
strides up to the boar, and Ket and he greet each other with 
chivalrous courtesy: 

"And now welcome to thee, O Conall, thou of the iron 
heart and fiery blood; keen as the glitter of ice, ever-victorious 
chieftain; hail, mighty son of Finnchoom!" said Ket. 

And Conall said: "Hail to thee, Ket, flower of heroes, lord of 
chariots, a raging sea in battle; a strong, majestic bull; hail, son 

"And now," went on Conall, "rise up from the boar and give 
me place." 

"Why so?" replied Ket. 

"Dost thou seek a contest from me?" said Conall. "Verily 
thou shalt have it. By the gods of my nation I swear that since I 
[244] first took weapons in my hand I have never passed one day that 

I did not slay a Connacht man, nor one night that I did not make 
a foray on them, nor have I ever slept but I had the head of a 
Connacht man under my knee." 

"I confess," then said Ket, "that thou art a better man than I, 
and I yield thee the boar. But if Anluan my brother were here, he 
would match thee deed for deed, and sorrow and shame it is that 
he is not." 

"Anluan is here," shouted Conall, and with that he drew from 
his girdle the head of Anluan and dashed it in the face of Ket. 

Then all sprang to their feet and a wild shouting and tumult 
arose, and the swords flew out of themselves, and battle raged in 
the hall of mac Datho. Soon the hosts burst out through the doors 
of the dun and smote and slew each other in the open field, until 


the Connacht host were put to flight. The hound of mac Datho 
pursued the chariot of King Ailell of Connacht till the charioteer 
smote off its head, and so the cause of contention was won by 
neither party, and mac Datho lost his hound, but saved his lands 
and life. 

The Death of Ket 

The death of Ket is told in Keating's "History of Ireland." 
Returning from a foray in Ulster, he was overtaken by Conall 
at the place called the Ford of Ket, and they fought long and 
desperately. At last Ket was slain, but Conall of the Victories 
was in little better case, and lay bleeding to death when another 
Connacht champion named Bealcu 168 found him. "Kill me," 
said Conall to him, "that it be not said I fell at the hand of one 
Connacht man." But Bealcu said: "I will not slay a man at the 
point of death, but I will bring thee home and heal thee, and 
when thy strength is come again thou shalt fight with me in [245] 
single combat." Then Bealcu put Conall on a litter and brought 
him home, and had him tended till his wounds were healed. 

The three sons of Bealcu, however, when they saw what the 
Ulster champion was like in all his might, resolved to assassinate 
him before the combat should take place. By a stratagem Conall 
contrived that they slew their own father instead; and then, taking 
the heads of the three sons, he went back, victoriously as he was 
wont, to Ulster. 

The Death of Maev 

The tale of the death of Queen Maev is also preserved by 
Keating. Fergus mac Roy having been slain by Ailell with a cast 
of a spear as he bathed in a lake with Maev, and Ailell having 
been slain by Conall, Maev retired to an island 169 on Loch Ryve, 
where she was wont to bathe early every morning in a pool near 
to the landing-place. Forbay son of Conor mac Nessa, having 
discovered this habit of the queen's, found means one day to go 

" 8 Pronounced "Bay-al-koo." 

169 Inis Clothrann, now known as Quaker's Island. The pool no longer exists. 

210 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

unperceived to the pool and to measure the distance from it to 
the shore of the mainland. Then he went back to Emania, where 
he measured out the distance thus obtained, and placing an apple 
on a pole at one end he shot at it continually with a sling until he 
grew so good a marksman at that distance that he never missed 
his aim. Then one day, watching his opportunity by the shores of 
Loch Ryve, he saw Maev enter the water, and putting a bullet in 
his sling he shot at her with so good an aim that he smote her in 
the centre of the forehead and she fell dead. 

The great warrior-queen had reigned in Connacht, it was said, 
[246] for eighty-eight years. She is a signal example of the kind of 

women whom the Gaelic bards delighted to portray. Gentleness 
and modesty were by no means their usual characteristics, but 
rather a fierce overflowing life. Women-warriors like Skatha and 
Aifa are frequently met with, and one is reminded of the Gaulish 
women, with their mighty snow-white arms, so dangerous to 
provoke, of whom classical writers tell us. The Gaelic bards, 
who in so many ways anticipated the ideas of chivalric romance, 
did not do so in setting women in a place apart from men. 
Women were judged and treated like men, neither as drudges nor 
as goddesses, and we know that well into historic times they went 
with men into battle, a practice only ended in the sixth century. 

Fergus mac Leda and the Wee Folk 

Of the stories of the Ultonian Cycle which do not centre on 
the figure of Cuchulain, one of the most interesting is that of 
Fergus mac Leda and the King of the Wee Folk. In this tale 
Fergus appears as King of Ulster, but as he was contemporary 
with Conor mac Nessa, and in the Cattle Raid of Quelgny is 
represented as following him to war, we must conclude that he 
was really a sub-king, like Cuchulain or Owen of Ferney. 

The tale opens in Faylinn, or the Land of the Wee Folk, a race 
of elves presenting an amusing parody of human institutions on a 
reduced scale, but endowed (like dwarfish people generally in the 


literature of primitive races) with magical powers. Iubdan, 170 the 
King of Faylinn, when flushed with wine at a feast, is bragging 
of the greatness of his power and the invincibility of his armed 
forces — have they not the strong man Glower, who with his axe 
has been known to hew down a thistle at a stroke? But the king's 
bard, Eisirt, has heard something of a giant race oversea in a [247] 
land called Ulster, one man of whom would annihilate a whole 
battalion of the Wee Folk, and he incautiously allows himself to 
hint as much to the boastful monarch. He is immediately clapped 
into prison for his audacity, and only gets free by promising to 
go immediately to the land of the mighty men, and bring back 
evidence of the truth of his incredible story. 

So off he goes; and one fine day King Fergus and his lords 
find at the gate of their Dun a tiny little fellow magnificently 
clad in the robes of a royal bard, who demands entrance. He 
is borne in upon the hand of iEda, the king's dwarf and bard, 
and after charming the court by his wise and witty sayings, and 
receiving a noble largesse, which he at once distributes among 
the poets and other court attendants of Ulster, he goes off home, 
taking with him as a guest the dwarf ^Eda, before whom the 
Wee Folk fly as a "Fomorian giant," although, as Eisirt explains, 
the average man of Ulster can carry him like a child. Iubdan 
is now convinced, but Eisirt puts him under geise, the bond of 
chivalry which no Irish chieftain can repudiate without being 
shamed, to go himself, as Eisirt has done, to the palace of Fergus 
and taste the king's porridge. Iubdan, after he has seen ^Eda, is 
much dismayed, but he prepares to go, and bids Bebo, his wife, 
accompany him. "You did an ill deed," she says, "when you 
condemned Eisirt to prison; but surely there is no man under the 
sun that can make thee hear reason." 

So off they go, and Iubdan's fairy steed bears them over the 
sea till they reach Ulster, and by midnight they stand before the 

212 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

king's palace. "Let us taste the porridge as we were bound," says 
Bebo, "and make off before daybreak." They steal in and find 
[248] the porridge-pot, to the rim of which Iubdan can only reach by 

standing on his horse's back. In straining downwards to get at 
the porridge he overbalances himself and falls in. There in the 
thick porridge he sticks fast, and there Fergus's scullions find 
him at the break of day, with the faithful Bebo lamenting. They 
bear him off to Fergus, who is amazed at finding another wee 
man, with a woman too, in his palace. He treats them hospitably, 
but refuses all appeals to let them go. The story now recounts 
in a spirit of broad humour several Rabelaisian adventures in 
which Bebo is concerned, and gives a charming poem supposed 
to have been uttered by Iubdan in the form of advice to Fergus's 
fire-gillie as to the merits for burning of different kinds of timber. 
The following are extracts: 

"Burn not the sweet apple-tree of drooping branches, of 

the white blossoms, to whose gracious head each man puts 

forth his hand." 

"Burn not the noble willow, the unfailing ornament of 
poems; bees drink from its blossoms, all delight in the graceful 

"The delicate, airy tree of the Druids, the rowan with 
its berries, this burn; but avoid the weak tree, burn not the 
slender hazel." 

"The ash-tree of the black buds burn not — timber that 
speeds the wheel, that yields the rider his switch; the ashen 
spear is the scale-beam of battle." 

At last the Wee Folk come in a great multitude to beg the 
release of Iubdan. On the king's refusal they visit the country 
with various plagues, snipping off the ears of corn, letting the 
calves suck all the cows dry, defiling the wells, and so forth; but 
Fergus is obdurate. In their quality as earth-gods, dei terreni, 


they promise to make the plains before the palace of Fergus stand 
thick with corn every year without ploughing or sowing, but all [249] 
is vain. At last, however, Fergus agrees to ransom Iubdan against 
the best of his fairy treasures, so Iubdan recounts them — the 
cauldron that can never be emptied, the harp that plays of itself; 
and finally he mentions a pair of water-shoes, wearing which a 
man can go over or under water as freely as on dry land. Fergus 
accepts the shoes, and Iubdan is released. 

The Blemish of Fergus 

But it is hard for a mortal to get the better of Fairyland — a 
touch of hidden malice lurks in magical gifts, and so it proved 
now. Fergus was never tired of exploring the depths of the lakes 
and rivers of Ireland; but one day, in Loch Rury, he met with a 
hideous monster, the Muirdris, or river-horse, which inhabited 
that lake, and from which he barely saved himself by flying to 
the shore. With the terror of this encounter his face was twisted 
awry; but since a blemished man could not hold rule in Ireland, 
his queen and nobles took pains, on some pretext, to banish all 
mirrors from the palace, and kept the knowledge of his condition 
from him. One day, however, he smote a bondmaid with a switch, 
for some negligence, and the maid, indignant, cried out: "It were 
better for thee, Fergus, to avenge thyself on the river-horse that 
hath twisted thy face than to do brave deeds on women!" Fergus 
bade fetch him a mirror, and looked in it. "It is true," he said; 
"the river-horse of Loch Rury has done this thing." 

Death of Fergus 

The conclusion may be given in the words of Sir Samuel 
Ferguson's fine poem on this theme. Fergus donned the magic [250] 
shoes, took sword in hand, and went to Loch Rury: 

"For a day and night 
Beneath the waves he rested out of sight, 
But all the Ultonians on the bank who stood 
Saw the loch boil and redden with his blood. 
When next at sunrise skies grew also red 

214 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

He rose — and in his hand the Muirdris' head. 
Gone was the blemish! On his goodly face 
Each trait symmetric had resumed its place: 
And they who saw him marked in all his mien 
A king's composure, ample and serene. 
He smiled; he cast his trophy to the bank, 
Said, 'I, survivor, Ulstermen!' and sank." 

This fine tale has been published in full from an Egerton MS., 
by Mr. Standish Hayes O'Grady, in his "Silva Gadelica." The 
humorous treatment of the fairy element in the story would mark 
it as belonging to a late period of Irish legend, but the tragic and 
noble conclusion unmistakably signs it as belonging to the Ulster 
bardic literature, and it falls within the same order of ideas, if 
it were not composed within the same period, as the tales of 

Significance of Irish Place-Names 

Before leaving this great cycle of legendary literature let us 
notice what has already, perhaps, attracted the attention of some 
readers — the extent to which its chief characters and episodes 
have been commemorated in the still surviving place-names of 
the country. 171 This is true of Irish legend in general — it is 
especially so of the Ultonian Cycle. Faithfully indeed, through 
many a century of darkness and forgetting, have these names 
[251] pointed to the hidden treasures of heroic romance which the 

labours of our own day are now restoring to light. The name 
of the little town of Ardee, as we have seen, 172 commemorates 
the tragic death of Ferdia at the hand of his "heart companion," 
the noblest hero of the Gael. The ruins of Dun Baruch, where 
Fergus was bidden to the treacherous feast, still look over the 
waters of Moyle, across which Naisi and Deirdre sailed to their 

171 Dr. P. W. Joyce's "Irish Names of Places" is a storehouse of information 
on this subject. 

172 P. 211, note. 


doom. Ardnurchar, the Hill of the Sling-cast, in Westmeath, 173 
brings to mind the story of the stately monarch, the crowd of 
gazing women, and the crouching enemy with the deadly missile 
which bore the vengeance of Mesgedra. The name of Armagh, 
or Ard Macha, the Hill of Macha, enshrines the memory of the 
Fairy Bride and her heroic sacrifice, while the grassy rampart 
can still be traced where the war-goddess in the earlier legend 
drew its outline with the pin of her brooch when she founded 
the royal fortress of Ulster. Many pages might be filled with 
these instances. Perhaps no modern country has place-names 
so charged with legendary associations as are those of Ireland. 
Poetry and myth are there still closely wedded to the very soil of 
the land — a fact in which there lies ready to hand an agency for 
education, for inspiration, of the noblest kind, if we only had the 
insight to see it and the art to make use of it. 


The Fianna of Erin 

As the tales of the Ultonian Cycle cluster round the heroic 
figure of the Hound of Cullan, so do those of the Ossianic Cycle 
round that of Finn mac Cumhal, 174 whose son OisTn 175 (or Ossian, 
as Macpherson called him in the pretended translations from the 


The name is given both to the hill, ard, and to the ford, atha beneath it. 

216 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Gaelic which first introduced him to the English-speaking world) 
was a poet as well as a warrior, and is the traditional author of 
most of them. The events of the Ultonian Cycle are supposed 
to have taken place about the time of the birth of Christ. Those 
of the Ossianic Cycle fell mostly in the reign of Cormac mac 
Art, who lived in the third century A.D. During his reign the 
Fianna of Erin, who are represented as a kind of military Order 
composed mainly of the members of two clans, Clan Bascna and 
Clan Morna, and who were supposed to be devoted to the service 
of the High King and to the repelling of foreign invaders, reached 
the height of their renown under the captaincy of Finn. 

The annalists of ancient Ireland treated the story of Finn and 
the Fianna, in its main outlines, as sober history. This it can 
hardly be. Ireland had no foreign invaders during the period when 
the Fianna are supposed to have flourished, and the tales do not 
throw a ray of light on the real history of the country; they are 
far more concerned with a Fairyland populated by supernatural 
beings, beautiful or terrible, than with any tract of real earth 
inhabited by real men and women. The modern critical reader of 
these tales will soon feel that it would be idle to seek for any basis 
[253] of fact in this glittering mirage. But the mirage was created by 

poets and storytellers of such rare gifts for this kind of literature 
that it took at once an extraordinary hold on the imagination of 
the Irish and Scottish Gael. 

The Ossianic Cycle 

The earliest tales of this cycle now extant are found in 
manuscripts of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and were 
composed probably a couple of centuries earlier. But the cycle 
lasted in a condition of vital growth for a thousand years, right 
down to Michael Comyn's "Lay of Oisin in the Land of Youth," 
which was composed about 1750, and which ended the long 


history of Gaelic literature. 176 It has been estimated 177 that if 
all the tales and poems of the Ossianic Cycle which still remain 
could be printed they would fill some twenty-five volumes the 
size of this. Moreover, a very great proportion of this literature, 
even if there were no manuscripts at all, could during the last 
and the preceding centuries have been recovered from the lips 
of what has been absurdly called an "illiterate" peasantry in the 
Highlands and in the Gaelic-speaking parts or Ireland. It cannot 
but interest us to study the character of the literature which was 
capable of exercising such a spell. 

Contrasted with the Ultonian Cycle 

Let us begin by saying that the reader will find himself in an 
altogether different atmosphere from that in which the heroes 
of the Ultonian Cycle live and move. Everything speaks of a 
later epoch, when life was gentler and softer, when men lived 
more in settlements and towns, when the Danaan Folk were [254] 
more distinctly fairies and less deities, when in literature the 
elements of wonder and romance predominated, and the iron 
string of heroism and self-sacrifice was more rarely sounded. 
There is in the Ossianic literature a conscious delight in wild 
nature, in scenery, in the song of birds, the music of the chase 
through the woods, in mysterious and romantic adventure, which 
speaks unmistakably of a time when the free, open-air life "under 
the greenwood tree" is looked back on and idealised, but no 
longer habitually lived, by those who celebrate it. There is also 
a significant change of locale. The Conorian tales were the 
product of a literary movement having its sources among the 
bleak hills or on the stern rock-bound coasts of Ulster. In the 
Ossianic Cycle we find ourselves in the Midlands or South of 
Ireland. Much of the action takes place amid the soft witchery 
of the Killarney landscape, and the difference between the two 

176 Subject, of course, to the possibility that the present revival of Gaelic as a 
spoken tongue may lead to the opening of a new chapter in that history. 

177 See "Ossian and Ossianic Literature," by Alfred Nutt, p. 4. 

218 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

regions is reflected in the ethical temper of the tales. 

In the Ultonian Cycle it will have been noticed that however 
extravagantly the supernatural element may be employed, the 
final significance of almost every tale, the end to which all the 
supernatural machinery is worked, is something real and human, 
something that has to do with the virtues or vices, the passions 
or the duties or men and women. In the Ossianic Cycle, broadly 
speaking, this is not so. The nobler vein of literature seems to 
have been exhausted, and we have now beauty for the sake of 
beauty, romance for the sake of romance, horror or mystery for 
the sake of the excitement they arouse. The Ossianic tales are, at 
their best, 

"Lovely apparitions, sent To be a moment's ornament." 

[255] They lack that something, found in the noblest art as in the 

noblest personalities, which has power "to warn, to comfort, and 

The Coming of Finn 

King Cormac mac Art was certainly a historical character, 
which is more, perhaps, than we can say of Conor mac Nessa. 
Whether there is any real personage behind the glorious figure 
of his great captain, Finn, it is more difficult to say. But for our 
purpose it is not necessary to go into this question. He was a 
creation of the Celtic mind in one land and in one stage of its 
development, and our part here is to show what kind of character 
the Irish mind liked to idealise and make stories about. 

Finn, like most of the Irish heroes, had a partly Danaan 
ancestry. His mother, Murna of the White Neck, was grand- 
daughter of Nuada of the Silver Hand, who had wedded that 
Ethlinn, daughter of Balor the Fomorian, who bore the Sun-god 
Lugh to Kian. Cumhal son of Trenmor was Finn's father. He was 
chief of the Clan Bascna, who were contending with the Clan 


Morna for the leadership of the Fianna, and was overthrown and 
slain by these at the battle of Knock. 178 

Among the Clan Morna was a man named Lia, the lord of 
Luachar in Connacht, who was Treasurer of the Fianna, and who 
kept the Treasure Bag, a bag made of crane's skin and having in 
it magic weapons and jewels of great price that had come down 
from the days of the Danaans. And he became Treasurer to the 
Clan Morna and still kept the bag at Rath Luachar. 

Murna, after the defeat and death of Cumhal, took refuge in 
the forests of Slieve Bloom, 179 and there she bore a man-child 
whom she named Demna. For fear that the Clan Morna would [256] 
find him out and slay him, she gave him to be nurtured in the 
wildwood by two aged women, and she herself became wife to 
the King of Kerry. But Demna, when he grew up to be a lad, 
was called "Finn," or the Fair One, on account of the whiteness 
of his skin and his golden hair, and by this name he was always 
known thereafter. His first deed was to slay Lia, who had the 
Treasure Bag of the Fianna, which he took from him. He then 
sought out his uncle Crimmal, who, with a few other old men, 
survivors of the chiefs of Clan Bascna, had escaped the sword at 
Castleknock, and were living in much penury and affliction in 
the recesses of the forests of Connacht. These he furnished with 
a retinue and guard from among a body of youths who followed 
his fortunes, and gave them the Treasure Bag. He himself went to 
learn the accomplishments of poetry and science from an ancient 
sage and Druid named Finegas, who dwelt on the river Boyne. 
Here, in a pool of this river, under boughs of hazel from which 
dropped the Nuts of Knowledge on the stream, lived Fintan the 
Salmon of Knowledge, which whoso ate of him would enjoy all 
the wisdom of the ages. Finegas had sought many a time to catch 
this salmon, but failed until Finn had come to be his pupil. Then 
one day he caught it, and gave it to Finn to cook, bidding him eat 

Now Castleknock, near Dublin. 

179 In the King's County. 

220 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

none of it himself, but to tell him when it was ready. When the 
lad brought the salmon, Finegas saw that his countenance was 
changed. "Hast thou eaten of the salmon?" he asked. "Nay," 
said Finn, "but when I turned it on the spit my thumb was burnt, 
and I put it to my mouth." "Take the Salmon of Knowledge and 
eat it," then said Finegas, "for in thee the prophecy is come true. 
And now go hence, for I can teach thee no more." 
[257] After that Finn became as wise as he was strong and bold, and 

it is said that whenever he wished to divine what would befall, 
or what was happening at a distance, he had but to put his thumb 
in his mouth and bite it, and the knowledge he wished for would 
be his. 

Finn and the Goblin 

At this time Goll son of Morna was the captain of the Fianna 
of Erin, but Finn, being come to man's estate, wished to take 
the place of his father Cumhal. So he went to Tara, and during 
the Great Assembly, when no man might raise his hand against 
any other in the precincts of Tara, he sat down among the king's 
warriors and the Fianna. At last the king marked him as a stranger 
among them, and bade him declare his name and lineage. "I am 
Finn son of Cumhal," said he, "and I am come to take service 
with thee, O King, as my father did." The king accepted him 
gladly, and Finn swore loyal service to him. No long time after 
that came the period of the year when Tara was troubled by a 
goblin or demon that came at nightfall and blew fire-balls against 
the royal city, setting it in flames, and none could do battle with 
him, for as he came he played on a harp a music so sweet that 
each man who heard it was lapped in dreams, and forgot all else 
on earth for the sake of listening to that music. When this was 
told to Finn he went to the king and said: "Shall I, if I slay the 
goblin, have my father's place as captain of the Fianna?" "Yea, 
surely," said the king, and he bound himself to this by an oath. 

Now there were among the men-at-arms an old follower of 
Finn's father, Cumhal, who possessed a magic spear with a head 


of bronze and rivets of Arabian gold. The head was kept laced 
up in a leathern case; and it had the property that when the naked 
blade was laid against the forehead of a man it would fill him [258] 
with a strength and a battle-fury that would make him invincible 
in every combat. This spear the man Fiacha gave to Finn, and 
taught him how to use it, and with it he awaited the coming of the 
goblin on the ramparts of Tara. As night fell and mists began to 
gather in the wide plain around the Hill he saw a shadowy form 
coming swiftly towards him, and heard the notes of the magic 
harp. But laying the spear to his brow he shook off the spell, and 
the phantom fled before him to the Fairy Mound of Slieve Fuad, 
and there Finn overtook and slew him, and bore back his head to 

Then Cormac the King set Finn before the Fianna, and bade 
them all either swear obedience to him as their captain or seek 
service elsewhere. And first of all Goll mac Morna swore service, 
and then all the rest followed, and Finn became Captain of the 
Fianna of Erin, and ruled them till he died. 

Finn's Chief Men: Conan mac Lia 

With the coming of Finn the Fianna of Erin came to their glory, 
and with his life their glory passed away. For he ruled them as no 
other captain ever did, both strongly and wisely, and never bore 
a grudge against any, but freely forgave a man all offences save 
disloyalty to his lord. Thus it is told that Conan, son of the lord 
of Luachar, him who had the Treasure Bag and whom Finn slew 
at Rath Luachar, was for seven years an outlaw and marauder, 
harrying the Fians and killing here a man and there a hound, and 
firing dwellings, and raiding their cattle. At last they ran him to a 
corner at Cam Lewy, in Munster, and when he saw that he could 
escape no more he stole upon Finn as he sat down after a chase, 
and flung his arms round him from behind, holding him fast and 
motionless. Finn knew who held him thus, and said: "What wilt [259] 
thou, Conan?" Conan said: "To make a covenant of service and 
fealty with thee, for I may no longer evade thy wrath." So Finn 

222 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

laughed and said: "Be it so, Conan, and if thou prove faithful and 
valiant I also will keep faith." Conan served him for thirty years, 
and no man of all the Fianna was keener and hardier in fight. 

Conan mac Morna 

There was also another Conan, namely, mac Morna, who was 
big and bald, and unwieldy in manly exercises, but whose tongue 
was bitter and scurrilous; no high or brave thing was done that 
Conan the Bald did not mock and belittle. It is said that when 
he was stripped he showed down his back and buttocks a black 
sheep's fleece instead of a man's skin, and this is the way it came 
about. One day when Conan and certain others of the Fianna were 
hunting in the forest they came to a stately dun, white-walled, 
with coloured thatching on the roof, and they entered it to seek 
hospitality. But when they were within they found no man, but a 
great empty hall with pillars of cedar-wood and silken hangings 
about it, like the hall of a wealthy lord. In the midst there was a 
table set forth with a sumptuous feast of boar's flesh and venison, 
and a great vat of yew- wood full of red wine, and cups of gold 
and silver. So they set themselves gaily to eat and drink, for 
they were hungry from the chase, and talk and laughter were 
loud around the board. But one of them ere long started to his 
feet with a cry of fear and wonder, and they all looked round, 
and saw before their eyes the tapestried walls changing to rough 
wooden beams, and the ceiling to foul sooty thatch like that of 
a herdsman's hut. So they knew they were being entrapped by 
[260] some enchantment of the Fairy Folk, and all sprang to their feet 

and made for the doorway, that was no longer high and stately, 
but was shrinking to the size of a fox earth — all but Conan the 
Bald, who was gluttonously devouring the good things on the 
table, and heeded nothing else. Then they shouted to him, and as 
the last of them went out he strove to rise and follow, but found 
himself limed to the chair so that he could not stir. So two of 
the Fianna, seeing his plight, rushed back and seized his arms 
and tugged with all their might, and as they dragged him away 


they left the most part of his raiment and his skin sticking to the 
chair. Then, not knowing what else to do with him in his sore 
plight, they clapped upon his back the nearest thing they could 
find, which was the skin of a black sheep that they took from a 
peasant's flock hard by, and it grew there, and Conan wore it till 
his death. 

Though Conan was a coward and rarely adventured himself 
in battle with the Fianna, it is told that once a good man fell by 
his hand. This was on the day of the great battle with the pirate 
horde on the Hill of Slaughter in Kerry. 180 For Liagan, one of the 
invaders, stood out before the hosts and challenged the bravest 
of the Fians to single combat, and the Fians in mockery thrust 
Conan forth to the fight. When he appeared Liagan laughed, for 
he had more strength than wit, and he said: "Silly is thy visit, 
thou bald old man." And as Conan still approached Liagan lifted 
his hand fiercely, and Conan said: "Truly thou art in more peril 
from the man behind than from the man in front." Liagan looked 
round; and in that instant Conan swept off his head, and then 
threw his sword and ran for shelter to the ranks of the laughing 
Fians. But Finn was very wroth because he had won the victory 
by a trick. [261] 

Dermot O'Dyna 

And one of the chiefest of the friends of Finn was Dermot 
of the Love Spot. He was so fair and noble to look on that no 
woman could refuse him love, and it was said that he never knew 
weariness, but his step was as light at the end of the longest day 
of battle or the chase as it was at the beginning. Between him 
and Finn there was great love, until the day when Finn, then an 
old man, was to wed Grania, daughter of Cormac the High King; 
but Grania bound Dermot by the sacred ordinances of the Fian 
chivalry to fly with her on her wedding night, which thing, sorely 
against his will, he did, and thereby got his death. But Grania 

180 The hill still bears the name, Knockanar. 

224 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

went back to Finn, and when the Fianna saw her they laughed 
through all the camp in bitter mockery, for they would not have 
given one of the dead man's fingers for twenty such as Grania. 

Keelta mac Ronan and Oisln 

Another of the chief men that Finn had was Keelta mac Ronan, 
who was one of his house-stewards, and a strong warrior as well 
as a golden-tongued reciter of tales and poems. And there was 
Oisln, the son of Finn, the greatest poet of the Gael, of whom 
more shall be told hereafter. 


Oisln had a son, Oscar, who was the fiercest fighter in battle 
among all the Fians. He slew in his maiden battle three kings, 
and in his fury he also slew by mischance his own friend and 
condisciple Linne. His wife was the fair Aideen, who died of 
grief after Oscar's death in the battle of Gowra, and Oisln buried 
[262] her on Ben Edar (Howth), and raised over her the great dolmen 

which is there to this day. Oscar appears in this literature as a 
type of hard strength, with a heart "like twisted horn sheathed in 
steel," a character made as purely for war as a sword or spear. 

Geena mac Luga 

Another good man that Finn had was Geena, the son of Luga; 
his mother was the warrior-daughter of Finn, and his father was 
a near kinsman of hers. He was nurtured by a woman that bore 
the name of Fair Mane, who had brought up many of the Fianna 
to manhood. When his time to take arms was come he stood 
before Finn and made his covenant of fealty, and Finn gave 
him the captaincy of a band. But mac Luga proved slothful 
and selfish, for ever vaunting himself and his weapon-skill, and 
never training his men to the chase of deer or boar, and he used 
to beat his hounds and his serving-men. At last the Fians under 
him came with their whole company to Finn at Loch Lena, in 
Killarney, and there they laid their complaint against mac Luga, 
and said: "Choose now, O Finn, whether you will have us or the 
son of Luga by himself." 


Then Finn sent to mac Luga and questioned him, but mac 
Luga could say nothing to the point as to why the Fianna would 
none of him. Then Finn taught him the things befitting a youth 
of noble birth and a captain of men, and they were these: 

Maxims of the Fianna 

"Son of Luga, if armed service be thy design, in a great man's 
household be quiet, be surly in the narrow pass. 

"Without a fault of his beat not thy hound; until thou ascertain 
her guilt, bring not a charge against thy wife. [263] 

"In battle meddle not with a buffoon, for, O mac Luga, he is 
but a fool. 

"Censure not any if he be of grave repute; stand not up to take 
part in a brawl; have naught to do with a madman or a wicked 

"Two-thirds of thy gentleness be shown to women and to 
those that creep on the floor (little children) and to poets, and be 
not violent to the common people. 

"Utter not swaggering speech, nor say thou wilt not yield what 
is right; it is a shameful thing to speak too stiffly unless that it be 
feasible to carry out thy words. 

"So long as thou shalt live, thy lord forsake not; neither for 
gold nor for other reward in the world abandon one whom thou 
art pledged to protect. 

"To a chief do not abuse his people, for that is no work for a 
man of gentle blood. 

"Be no tale-bearer, nor utterer of falsehoods; be not talkative 
nor rashly censorious. Stir not up strife against thee, however 
good a man thou be. 

"Be no frequenter of the drinking-house, nor given to carping 
at the old; meddle not with a man of mean estate. 

"Dispense thy meat freely; have no niggard for thy familiar. 

"Force not thyself upon a chief, nor give him cause to speak 
ill of thee. 

226 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"Stick to thy gear; hold fast to thy arms till the stern fight with 
its weapon-glitter be ended. 

"Be more apt to give than to deny, and follow after gentleness, 
O son of Luga." 

And the son of Luga, it is written, heeded these counsels, and 
gave up his bad ways, and he became one of the best of Finn's 
[264] men. 

Character of Finn 

Suchlike things also Finn taught to all his followers, and the 
best of them became like himself in valour and gentleness and 
generosity. Each of them loved the repute of his comrades more 
than his own, and each would say that for all noble qualities there 
was no man in the breadth of the world worthy to be thought of 
beside Finn. 

It was said of him that "he gave away gold as if it were the 
leaves of the woodland, and silver as if it were the foam of the 
sea"; and that whatever he had bestowed upon any man, if he fell 
out with him afterwards, he was never known to bring it against 

The poet OisTn once sang of him to St. Patrick: 

"These are the things that were dear to Finn — 
The din of battle, the banquet's glee, 
The bay of his hounds through the rough glen ringing, 
And the blackbird singing in Letter Lee, 

"The shingle grinding along the shore 

When they dragged his war-boats down to sea, 
The dawn wind whistling his spears among, 
And the magic song of his minstrels three." 


Tests of the Fianna 

In the time of Finn no one was ever permitted to be one of the 
Fianna of Erin unless he could pass through many severe tests 
of his worthiness. He must be versed in the Twelve Books of 
Poetry, and must himself be skilled to make verse in the rime 
and metre of the masters of Gaelic poesy. Then he was buried 
to his middle in the earth, and must, with a shield and a hazel 
stick, there defend himself against nine warriors casting spears 
at him, and if he were wounded he was not accepted. Then his 
hair was woven into braids, and he was chased through the forest 
by the Fians. If he were overtaken, or if a braid of his hair were [265] 
disturbed, or if a dry stick cracked under his foot, he was not 
accepted. He must be able to leap over a lath level with his brow, 
and to run at full speed under one level with his knee, and he 
must be able while running to draw out a thorn from his foot and 
never slacken speed. He must take no dowry with a wife. 

Keelta and St. Patrick 

It was said that one of the Fians, namely, Keelta, lived on 
to a great age, and saw St. Patrick, by whom he was baptized 
into the faith of the Christ, and to whom he told many tales of 
Finn and his men, which Patrick's scribe wrote down. And once 
Patrick asked him how it was that the Fianna became so mighty 
and so glorious that all Ireland sang of their deeds, as Ireland has 
done ever since. Keelta answered: "Truth was in our hearts and 
strength in our arms, and what we said, that we fulfilled." 

This was also told of Keelta after he had seen St. Patrick 
and received the Faith. He chanced to be one day by Leyney, 
in Connacht, where the Fairy Folk of the Mound of Duma were 
wont to be sorely harassed and spoiled every year by pirates from 
oversea. They called Keelta to their aid, and by his counsel and 
valour the invaders were overcome and driven home; but Keelta 
was sorely wounded. Then Keelta asked that Owen, the seer of 
the Fairy Folk, might foretell him how long he had to live, for he 
was already a very aged man. Owen said: "It will be seventeen 

228 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

years, O Keelta of fair fame, till thou fall by the pool of Tara, 
and grievous that will be to all the king's household." "Even so 
did my chief and lord, my guardian and loving protector, Finn, 
foretell to me," said Keelta. "And now what fee will ye give me 
[266] for my rescue of you from the worst affliction that ever befell 

you?" "A great reward," said the Fairy Folk, "even youth; for 
by our art we shall change you into a young man again with all 
the strength and activity of your prime." "Nay, God forbid," said 
Keelta, "that I should take upon me a shape of sorcery, or any 
other than that which my Maker, the true and glorious God, hath 
bestowed upon me." And the Fairy Folk said: "It is the word of a 
true warrior and hero, and the thing that thou sayest is good." So 
they healed his wounds, and every bodily evil that he had, and 
he wished them blessing and victory, and went his way. 

The Birth of Oisln 

One day, as Finn and his companions and dogs were returning 
from the chase to their dun on the Hill of Allen, a beautiful fawn 
started up on their path, and the chase swept after her, she taking 
the way which led to their home. Soon all the pursuers were left 
far behind save only Finn himself and his two hounds Bran and 
Skolawn. Now these hounds were of strange breed; for Tyren, 
sister to Murna, the mother of Finn, had been changed into a 
hound by the enchantment of a woman of the Fairy Folk, who 
loved Tyren's husband Ullan; and the two hounds of Finn were 
the children of Tyren, born to her in that shape. Of all hounds in 
Ireland they were the best, and Finn loved them much, so that it 
was said he wept but twice in his life, and once was for the death 
of Bran. 

At last, as the chase went on down a valley-side, Finn saw 

the fawn stop and lie down, while the two hounds began to 

play round her, and to lick her face and limbs. So he gave 

commandment that none should hurt her, and she followed them 

[267] to the Dun of Allen, playing with the hounds as she went. 

The same night Finn awoke and saw standing by his bed the 


fairest woman his eyes had ever beheld. 

"I am Saba, O Finn," she said, "and I was the fawn ye chased 
to-day. Because I would not give my love to the Druid of the 
Fairy Folk, who is named the Dark, he put that shape upon me 
by his sorceries, and I have borne it these three years. But a 
slave of his, pitying me, once revealed to me that if I could win 
to thy great Dun of Allen, O Finn, I should be safe from all 
enchantments, and my natural shape would come to me again. 
But I feared to be torn in pieces by thy dogs, or wounded by thy 
hunters, till at last I let myself be overtaken by thee alone and by 
Bran and Skolawn, who have the nature of man and would do 
me no hurt." "Have no fear, maiden," said Finn; "we, the Fianna, 
are free, and our guest-friends are free; there is none who shall 
put compulsion on you here." 

So Saba dwelt with Finn, and he made her his wife; and so 
deep was his love for her that neither the battle nor the chase 
had any delight for him, and for months he never left her side. 
She also loved him as deeply, and their joy in each other was 
like that of the Immortals in the Land of Youth. But at last word 
came to Finn that the warships of the Northmen were in the Bay 
of Dublin, and he summoned his heroes to the fight; "For," said 
he to Saba, "the men of Erin give us tribute and hospitality to 
defend them from the foreigner, and it were shame to take it from 
them and not to give that to which we, on our side, are pledged." 
And he called to mind that great saying of Goll mac Morna when 
they were once sore bestead by a mighty host. "A man," said 
Goll, "lives after his life, but not after his honour." 

Seven days was Finn absent, and he drove the Northmen from [268] 
the shores of Erin. But on the eighth day he returned, and when 
he entered his dun he saw trouble in the eyes of his men, and of 
their fair womenfolk, and Saba was not on the rampart expecting 
his return. So he bade them tell him what had chanced, and they 

"Whilst thou, our father and lord, wert afar off smiting the 

230 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

foreigner, and Saba looking ever down the pass for thy return, we 
saw one day as it were the likeness of thee approaching, and Bran 
and Skolawn at thy heels. And we seemed also to hear the notes 
of the Fian hunting-call blown on the wind. Then Saba hastened 
to the great gate, and we could not stay her, so eager was she 
to rush to the phantom. But when she came near she halted and 
gave a loud and bitter cry, and the shape of thee smote her with 
a hazel wand, and lo, there was no woman there any more, but a 
deer. Then those hounds chased it, and ever as it strove to reach 
again the gate of the dun they turned back. We all now seized 
what arms we could and ran out to drive away the enchanter, but 
when we reached the place there was nothing to be seen, only 
still we heard the rushing of flying feet and the baying of dogs, 
and one thought it came from here, and another from there, till at 
last the uproar died away and all was still. What we could do, O 
Finn, we did; Saba is gone." 

Finn then struck his hand on his breast, but spoke no word, 
and he went to his own chamber. No man saw him for the rest of 
that day, nor for the day after. Then he came forth, and ordered 
the matters of the Fianna as of old, but for seven years thereafter 
he went searching for Saba through every remote glen and dark 
forest and cavern of Ireland, and he would take no hounds with 
him save Bran and Skolawn. But at last he renounced all hope of 
[269] finding her again, and went hunting as of old. 

One day as he was following the chase on Ben Bulban, in 
Sligo, he heard the musical bay of the dogs change of a sudden 
to a fierce growling and yelping, as though they were in combat 
with some beast, and running hastily up he and his men beheld, 
under a great tree, a naked boy with long hair, and around him the 
hounds struggling to seize him, but Bran and Skolawn fighting 
with them and keeping them off. And the lad was tall and 
shapely, and as the heroes gathered round he gazed undauntedly 
on them, never heeding the rout of dogs at his feet. The Fians 
beat off the dogs and brought the lad home with them, and Finn 


was very silent and continually searched the lad's countenance 
with his eyes. In time the use of speech came to him, and the 
story that he told was this: 

He had known no father, and no mother save a gentle hind, 
with whom he lived in a most green and pleasant valley shut 
in on every side by towering cliffs that could not be scaled or 
by deep chasms in the earth. In the summer he lived on fruits 
and suchlike, and in the winter store of provisions was laid 
for him in a cave. And there came to them sometimes a tall, 
dark-visaged man, who spoke to his mother, now tenderly, and 
now in loud menace, but she always shrank away in fear, and 
the man departed in anger. At last there came a day when the 
dark man spoke very long with his mother in all tones of entreaty 
and of tenderness and of rage, but she would still keep aloof and 
give no sign save of fear and abhorrence. Then at length the 
dark man drew near and smote her with a hazel wand; and with 
that he turned and went his way, but she this time followed him, 
still looking back at her son and piteously complaining. And he, 
when he strove to follow, found himself unable to move a limb; 
and crying out with rage and desolation he fell to the earth, and 
his senses left him. [270] 

When he came to himself he was on the mountain-side on Ben 
Bulban, where he remained some days, searching for that green 
and hidden valley, which he never found again. And after a while 
the dogs found him; but of the hind his mother and of the Dark 
Druid there is no man knows the end. 

Finn called his name OisTn (Little Fawn), and he became a 
warrior of fame, but far more famous for the songs and tales 
that he made; so that of all things to this day that are told of the 
Fianna of Erin men are wont to say: "Thus sang the bard OisTn, 
son of Finn." 

OisTn and Niam 

It happened that on a misty summer morning as Finn and OisTn 
with many companions were hunting on the shores of Loch Lena 

232 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

they saw coming towards them a maiden, beautiful exceedingly, 
riding on a snow-white steed. She wore the garb of a queen; 
a crown of gold was on her head, and a dark-brown mantle of 
silk, set with stars of red gold, fell around her and trailed on the 
ground. Silver shoes were on her horse's hoofs, and a crest of 
gold nodded on his head. When she came near she said to Finn: 
"From very far away I have come, and now at last I have found 
thee, Finn son of Cumhal." 

Then Finn said: "What is thy land and race, maiden, and what 
dost thou seek from me?" 

"My name," she said, "is Niam of the Golden Hair. I am the 
daughter of the King of the Land of Youth, and that which has 
brought me here is the love of thy son OisTn." Then she turned 
to OisTn, and she spoke to him in the voice of one who has never 
asked anything but it was granted to her. 

"Wilt thou go with me, OisTn, to my father's land?" 
And OisTn said: "That will I, and to the world's end"; for the 
[271] fairy spell had so wrought upon his heart that he cared no more 

for any earthly thing but to have the love of Niam of the Head of 

Then the maiden spoke of the Land Oversea to which she had 
summoned her lover, and as she spoke a dreamy stillness fell on 
all things, nor did a horse shake his bit, nor a hound bay, nor 
the least breath of wind stir in the forest trees till she had made 
an end. And what she said seemed sweeter and more wonderful 
as she spoke it than anything they could afterwards remember to 
have heard, but so far as they could remember it it was this: 

"Delightful is the land beyond all dreams, 
Fairer than aught thine eyes have ever seen. 
There all the year the fruit is on the tree, 
And all the year the bloom is on the flower. 


"There with wild honey drip the forest trees; 
The stores of wine and mead shall never fail. 
Nor pain nor sickness knows the dweller there, 
Death and decay come near him never more. 

"The feast shall cloy not, nor the chase shall tire, 
Nor music cease for ever through the hall; 
The gold and jewels of the Land of Youth 
Outshine all splendours ever dreamed by man. 

"Thou shalt have horses of the fairy breed, 
Thou shalt have hounds that can outrun the wind; 
A hundred chiefs shall follow thee in war, 
A hundred maidens sing thee to thy sleep. 

"A crown of sovranty thy brow shall wear, 
And by thy side a magic blade shall hang, 
And thou shalt be lord of all the Land of Youth, 
And lord of Niam of the Head of Gold." 

As the magic song ended the Fians beheld OisTn mount the 
fairy steed and hold the maiden in his arms, and ere they could 
stir or speak she turned her horse's head and shook the ringing 
bridle, and down the forest glade they fled, as a beam of light 
flies over the land when clouds drive across the sun; and never [272] 
did the Fianna behold OisTn son of Finn on earth again. 

Yet what befell him afterwards is known. As his birth was 
strange, so was his end, for he saw the wonders of the Land of 
Youth with mortal eyes and lived to tell them with mortal lips. 

The Journey to Fairyland 

When the white horse with its riders reached the sea it ran 
lightly over the waves, and soon the green woods and headlands 
of Erin faded out of sight. And now the sun shone fiercely down, 
and the riders passed into a golden haze in which OisTn lost all 
knowledge of where he was or if sea or dry land were beneath 

234 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

his horse's hoofs. But strange sights sometimes appeared to 
them in the mist, for towers and palace gateways loomed up and 
disappeared, and once a hornless doe bounded by them chased by 
a white hound with one red ear; and again they saw a young maid 
ride by on a brown steed, bearing a golden apple in her hand, and 
close behind her followed a young horseman on a white steed, a 
purple cloak floating at his back and a gold-hilted sword in his 
hand. And OisTn would have asked the princess who and what 
these apparitions were, but Niam bade him ask nothing nor seem 
to notice any phantom they might see until they were come to 
the Land of Youth. 

Oisln's Return 

The story goes on to tell how OisTn met with various adventures 
in the Land of Youth, including the rescue of an imprisoned 
princess from a Fomorian giant. But at last, after what seemed 
to him a sojourn of three weeks in the Land of Youth, he was 
[273] satiated with delights of every kind, and longed to visit his native 

land again and to see his old comrades. He promised to return 
when he had done so, and Niam gave him the white fairy steed 
that had borne him across the sea to Fairyland, but charged him 
that when he had reached the Land of Erin again he must never 
alight from its back nor touch the soil of the earthly world with 
his foot, or the way of return to the Land of Youth would be 
barred to him for ever. OisTn then set forth, and once more 
crossed the mystic ocean, finding himself at last on the western 
shores of Ireland. Here he made at once for the Hill of Allen, 
where the dun of Finn was wont to be, but marvelled, as he 
traversed the woods, that he met no sign of the Fian hunters and 
at the small size of the folk whom he saw tilling the ground. 

At length, coming from the forest path into the great clearing 
where the Hill of Allen was wont to rise, broad and green, 
with its rampart enclosing many white-walled dwellings, and the 
great hall towering high in the midst, he saw but grassy mounds 
overgrown with rank weeds and whin bushes, and among them 


pastured a peasant's kine. Then a strange horror fell upon him 
and he thought some enchantment from the land of Faery held 
his eyes and mocked him with false visions. He threw his arms 
abroad and shouted the names of Finn and Oscar, but none 
replied, and he thought that perchance the hounds might hear 
him, so he cried upon Bran and Skolawn and strained his ears if 
they might catch the faintest rustle or whisper of the world from 
the sight of which his eyes were holden, but he heard only the 
sighing of the wind in the whins. Then he rode in terror from 
that place, setting his face towards the eastern sea, for he meant 
to traverse Ireland from side to side and end to end in search of 
some escape from his enchantment. [274] 

The Broken Spell 

But when he came near to the eastern sea, and was now in the 
place which is called the Valley of the Thrushes, 181 he saw in a 
field upon the hillside a crowd of men striving to roll aside a great 
boulder from their tilled land, and an overseer directing them. 
Towards them he rode, meaning to ask them concerning Finn and 
the Fianna. As he came near they all stopped their work to gaze 
upon him, for to them he appeared like a messenger of the Fairy 
Folk or an angel from heaven. Taller and mightier he was than 
the men-folk they knew, with sword-blue eyes and brown, ruddy 
cheeks; in his mouth, as it were, a shower of pearls, and bright 
hair clustered beneath the rim of his helmet. And as OisTn looked 
upon their puny forms, marred by toil and care, and at the stone 
which they feebly strove to heave from its bed, he was filled with 
pity, and thought to himself, "Not such were even the churls of 
Erin when I left them for the Land of Youth" and he stooped 
from his saddle to help them. He set his hand to the boulder, 
and with a mighty heave he lifted it from where it lay and set it 
rolling down the hill. And the men raised a shout of wonder and 
applause; but their shouting changed in a moment into cries of 

181 Glanismole, near Dublin. 

236 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

terror and dismay, and they fled, jostling and overthrowing each 
other to escape from the place of fear, for a marvel horrible to see 
had taken place. For OisTn's saddle-girth had burst as he heaved 
the stone and he fell headlong to the ground. In an instant the 
white steed had vanished from their eyes like a wreath of mist, 
and that which rose, feeble and staggering, from the ground was 
no youthful warrior, but a man stricken with extreme old age, 
[275] white-bearded and withered, who stretched out groping hands 

and moaned with feeble and bitter cries. And his crimson cloak 
and yellow silken tunic were now but coarse homespun stuff tied 
with a hempen girdle, and the gold-hilted sword was a rough 
oaken staff such as a beggar carries who wanders the roads from 
farmer's house to house. 

When the people saw that the doom that had been wrought 
was not for them they returned, and found the old man prone 
on the ground with his face hidden in his arms. So they lifted 
him up, and asked who he was and what had befallen him. OisTn 
gazed round on them with dim eyes, and at last he said: "I was 
OisTn the son of Finn, and I pray ye tell me where he dwells, 
for his dun on the Hill of Allen is now a desolation, and I have 
neither seen him nor heard his hunting-horn from the western to 
the eastern sea." Then the men gazed strangely on each other and 
on OisTn, and the overseer asked: "Of what Finn dost thou speak, 
for there be many of that name in Erin?" OisTn said: "Surely of 
Finn mac Cumhal mac Trenmdr, captain of the Fianna of Erin." 
Then the overseer said: "Thou art daft, old man, and thou hast 
made us daft to take thee for a youth as we did a while agone. 
But we at least have now our wits again, and we know that Finn 
son of Cumhal and all his generation have been dead these three 
hundred years. At the battle of Gowra fell Oscar, son of OisTn, 
and Finn at the battle of Brea, as the historians tell us; and the 
lays of OisTn, whose death no man knows the manner of, are sung 


by our harpers at great men's feasts. But now the Talkenn, 182 
Patrick, has come into Ireland, and has preached to us the One 
God and Christ His Son, by whose might these old days and 
ways are done away with; and Finn and his Fianna, with their 
feasting and hunting and songs of war and of love, have no such [276] 
reverence among us as the monks and virgins of Holy Patrick, 
and the psalms and prayers that go up daily to cleanse us from 
sin and to save us from the fire of judgment." But OisTn replied, 
only half hearing and still less comprehending what was said to 
him: "If thy God have slain Finn and Oscar, I would say that God 
is a strong man." Then they all cried out upon him, and some 
picked up stones, but the overseer bade them let him be until the 
Talkenn had spoken with him, and till he should order what was 
to be done. 

OisTn and Patrick 

So they brought him to Patrick, who treated him gently and 
hospitably, and to Patrick he told the story of all that had befallen 
him. But Patrick bade his scribes write all carefully down, that 
the memory of the heroes whom OisTn had known, and of the 
joyous and free life they had led in the woods and glens and wild 
places of Erin, should never be forgotten among men. 

This remarkable legend is known only in the modern Irish 
poem written by Michael Comyn about 1750, a poem which may 
be called the swan-song of Irish literature. Doubtless Comyn 
worked on earlier traditional material; but though the ancient 
Ossianic poems tell us of the prolongation of Oism's life, so that 
he could meet St. Patrick and tell him stories of the Fianna, 
the episodes of Niam's courtship and the sojourn in the Land of 
Youth are known to us at present only in the poem of Michael 

The Enchanted Cave 

182 Talkenn, or "Adze-head," was a name given to St. Patrick by the Irish. 
Probably it referred to the shape of his tonsure. 

238 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

This tale, which I take from S.H. O'Grady's edition in "Silva 
Gadelica," relates that Finn once made a great hunting in the 
[277] district of Corann, in Northern Connacht, which was ruled over 

by one Conaran, a lord of the Danaan Folk. Angered at the 
intrusion of the Fianna in his hunting-grounds, he sent his three 
sorcerer-daughters to take vengeance on the mortals. 

Finn, it is said, and Conan the Bald, with Finn's two favourite 
hounds, were watching the hunt from the top of the Hill of 
Keshcorran and listening to the cries of the beaters and the notes 
of the horn and the baying of the dogs, when, in moving about 
on the hill, they came upon the mouth of a great cavern, before 
which sat three hags of evil and revolting aspect. On three 
crooked sticks of holly they had twisted left-handwise hanks of 
yarn, and were spinning with these when Finn and his followers 
arrived. To view them more closely the warriors drew near, 
when they found themselves suddenly entangled in strands of 
the yarn which the hags had spun about the place like the web 
of a spider, and deadly faintness and trembling came over them, 
so that they were easily bound fast by the hags and carried into 
the dark recesses of the cave. Others of the party then arrived, 
looking for Finn. All suffered the same experience — they lost all 
their pith and valour at the touch of the bewitched yarn, and were 
bound and carried into the cave, until the whole party were laid 
in bonds, with the dogs baying and howling outside. 

The witches now seized their sharp, wide-channelled, hard- 
tempered swords, and were about to fall on the captives and slay 
them, but first they looked round at the mouth of the cave to 
see if there was any straggler whom they had not yet laid hold 
of. At this moment Goll mac Morna, "the raging lion, the torch 
of onset, the great of soul," came up, and a desperate combat 
ensued, which ended by Goll cleaving two of the hags in twain, 
and then subduing and binding the third, whose name was Irnan. 
[278] She, as he was about to slay her, begged for mercy — "Surely it 

were better for thee to have the Fianna whole" — and he gave her 


her life if she would release the prisoners. 

Into the cave they went, and one by one the captives were 
unbound, beginning with the poet Fergus Truelips and the "men of 
science," and they all sat down on the hill to recover themselves, 
while Fergus sang a chant of praise in honour of the rescuer, 
Goll; and Irnan disappeared. 

Ere long a monster was seen approaching them, a "gnarled 
hag" with blazing, bloodshot eyes, a yawning mouth full of 
ragged fangs, nails like a wild beast's, and armed like a warrior. 
She laid Finn under geise to provide her with single combat from 
among his men until she should have her fill of it. It was no 
other than the third sister, Irnan, whom Goll had spared. Finn in 
vain begged OisTn, Oscar, Keelta, and the other prime warriors 
of the Fianna to meet her; they all pleaded inability after the 
ill-treatment and contumely they had received. At last, as Finn 
himself was about to do battle with her, Goll said: "O Finn, 
combat with a crone beseems thee not," and he drew sword for a 
second battle with this horrible enemy. At last, after a desperate 
combat, he ran her through her shield and through her heart, so 
that the blade stuck out at the far side, and she fell dead. The 
Fianna then sacked the dun of Conaran, and took possession of 
all the treasure in it, while Finn bestowed on Goll mac Morna 
his own daughter, Keva of the White Skin, and, leaving the dun 
a heap of glowing embers, they returned to the Hill of Allen. 

The Chase of Slievegallion 

This fine story, which is given in poetical form, as if narrated 
by OisTn, in the Ossianic Society's "Transactions," tells how 
Cullan the Smith (here represented as a Danaan divinity), who [279] 
dwelt on or near the mountains of Slievegallion, in Co. Armagh, 
had two daughters, Aine and Milucra, each of whom loved Finn 
mac Cumhal. They were jealous of each other; and on Aine once 
happening to say that she would never have a man with grey hair, 
Milucra saw a means of securing Finn's love entirely for herself. 
So she assembled her friends among the Danaans round the little 

240 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

grey lake that lies on the top of Slievegallion, and they charged 
its waters with enchantments. 

This introduction, it may be observed, bears strong signs 
of being a later addition to the original tale, made in a less 
understanding age or by a less thoughtful class into whose hands 
the legend had descended. The real meaning of the transformation 
which it narrates is probably much deeper. 

The story goes on to say that not long after this the hounds 
of Finn, Bran and Skolawn, started a fawn near the Hill of 
Allen, and ran it northwards till the chase ended on the top 
of Slievegallion, a mountain which, like Slievenamon 183 in the 
south, was in ancient Ireland a veritable focus of Danaan magic 
and legendary lore. Finn followed the hounds alone till the fawn 
disappeared on the mountain-side. In searching for it Finn at last 
came on the little lake which lies on the top of the mountain, 
and saw by its brink a lady of wonderful beauty, who sat there 
lamenting and weeping. Finn asked her the cause of her grief. 
She explained that a gold ring which she dearly prized had fallen 
from her finger into the lake, and she charged Finn by the bonds 
of geise that he should plunge in and find it for her. 
[280] Finn did so, and after diving into every recess of the lake he 

discovered the ring, and before leaving the water gave it to the 
lady. She immediately plunged into the lake and disappeared. 
Finn then surmised that some enchantment was being wrought 
on him, and ere long he knew what it was, for on stepping forth 
on dry land he fell down from sheer weakness, and arose again, 
a tottering and feeble old man, snowy-haired and withered, so 
that even his faithful hounds did not know him, but ran round the 
lake searching for their lost master. 

Meantime Finn was missed from his palace on the Hill of 
Allen, and a party soon set out on the track on which he had 
been seen to chase the deer. They came to the lake-side on 

183 Pronounced "Sleeve-na-mon"': accent on last syllable. It means the 
Mountain of the [Fairy] Women. 


Slievegallion, and found there a wretched and palsied old man, 
whom they questioned, but who could do nothing but beat his 
breast and moan. At last, beckoning Keelta to come near, the 
aged man whispered faintly some words into his ear, and lo, it 
was Finn himself! When the Fianna had ceased from their cries 
of wonder and lamentation, Finn whispered to Keelta the tale of 
his enchantment, and told them that the author of it must be the 
daughter of Cullan the Smith, who dwelt in the Fairy Mound of 
Slievegallion. The Fianna, bearing Finn on a litter, immediately 
went to the Mound and began to dig fiercely. For three days 
and nights they dug at the Fairy Mound, and at last penetrated to 
its inmost recesses, when a maiden suddenly stood before them 
holding a drinking-horn of red gold. It was given to Finn. He 
drank from it, and at once his beauty and form were restored to 
him, but his hair still remained white as silver. This too would 
have been restored by another draught, but Finn let it stay as it 
was, and silver-white his hair remained to the day of his death. 

The tale has been made the subject of a very striking allegorical [281] 
drama, "The Masque of Finn," by Mr. Standish O'Grady, 
who, rightly no doubt, interprets the story as symbolising the 
acquisition of wisdom and understanding through suffering. A 
leader of men must descend into the lake of tears and know 
feebleness and despair before his spirit can sway them to great 

There is an antique sepulchral monument on the mountain-top 
which the peasantry of the district still regard — or did in the 
days before Board schools — as the abode of the "Witch of the 
Lake"; and a mysterious beaten path, which was never worn 
by the passage of human feet, and which leads from the rock 
sepulchre to the lake-side, is ascribed to the going to and fro of 
this supernatural being. 

The "Colloquy of the Ancients" 

One of the most interesting and attractive of the relics of 
Ossianic literature is the "Colloquy of the Ancients," Agallamh 

242 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

na Senorach, a long narrative piece dating from about the 
thirteenth century. It has been published with a translation 
in O'Grady's "Silva Gadelica." It is not so much a story as a 
collection of stories skilfully set in a mythical framework. The 
"Colloquy" opens by presenting us with the figures of Keelta 
mac Ronan and OisTn son of Finn, each accompanied by eight 
warriors, all that are left of the great fellowship of the Fianna 
after the battle of Gowra and the subsequent dispersion of the 
Order. A vivid picture is given us of the grey old warriors, who 
had outlived their epoch, meeting for the last time at the dun of a 
once famous chieftainess named Camha, and of their melancholy 
[282] talk over bygone days, till at last a long silence settled on them. 

Keelta Meets St. Patrick 

Finally Keelta and OisTn resolve to part, OisTn, of whom we 
hear little more, going to the Fairy Mound, where his Danaan 
mother (here called Blai) has her dwelling, while Keelta takes his 
way over the plains of Meath till he comes to Drumderg, where he 
lights on St. Patrick and his monks. How this is chronologically 
possible the writer does not trouble himself to explain, and he 
shows no knowledge of the legend of OisTn in the Land of Youth. 
"The clerics," says the story, "saw Keelta and his band draw near 
them, and fear fell on them before the tall men with the huge 
wolf-hounds that accompanied them, for they were not people of 
one epoch or of one time with the clergy." Patrick then sprinkles 
the heroes with holy water, whereat legions of demons who had 
been hovering over them fly away into the hills and glens, and 
"the enormous men sat down." Patrick, after inquiring the name 
of his guest, then says he has a boon to crave of him — he wishes 
to find a well of pure water with which to baptize the folk of 
Bregia and of Meath. 

The Well of Tradaban 

Keelta, who knows every brook and hill and rath and wood 
in the country, thereon takes Patrick by the hand and leads him 
away "till," as the writer says, "right in front of them they saw 


a loch-well, sparkling and translucid. The size and thickness of 
the cress and of the fothlacht, or brooklime, that grew on it was 
a wonderment to them." Then Keelta began to tell of the fame 
and qualities of the place, and uttered an exquisite little lyric in 
praise of it: 

"O Well of the Strand of the Two Women, beautiful are thy 
cresses, luxuriant, branching; since thy produce is neglected on [283] 
thee thy brooklime is not suffered to grow. Forth from thy banks 
thy trout are to be seen, thy wild swine in the wilderness; the deer 
of thy fair hunting crag-land, thy dappled and red-chested fawns ! 
Thy mast all hanging on the branches of the trees; thy fish in 
estuaries of the rivers; lovely the colours of thy purling streams, 
O thou that art azure-hued, and again green with reflections of 
surrounding copse-wood." 184 

St. Patrick and Irish Legend 

After the warriors have been entertained Patrick asks: "Was 
he, Finn mac Cumhal, a good lord with whom ye were?" Keelta 
praises the generosity of Finn, and goes on to describe in detail 
the glories of his household, whereon Patrick says: 

"Were it not for us an impairing of the devout life, an occasion 
of neglecting prayer, and of deserting converse with God, we, as 
we talked with thee, would feel the time pass quickly, warrior!" 

Keelta goes on with another tale of the Fianna, and Patrick, 
now fairly caught in the toils of the enchanter, cries: "Success 
and benediction attend thee, Keelta! This is to me a lightening of 
spirit and mind. And now tell us another tale." 

So ends the exordium of the "Colloquy." As usual in the 
openings of Irish tales, nothing could be better contrived; the 
touch is so light, there is so happy a mingling of pathos, poetry, 
and humour, and so much dignity in the sketching of the human 
characters introduced. The rest of the piece consists in the 
exhibition of a vast amount of topographical and legendary lore 

184 Translation by S.H. O'Grady. 

244 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

by Keelta, attended by the invariable "Success and benediction 
attend thee!" of Patrick. 

[284] They move together, the warrior and the saint, on Patrick's 

journey to Tara, and whenever Patrick or some one else in the 
company sees a hill or a fort or a well he asks Keelta what it 
is, and Keelta tells its name and a Fian legend to account for it, 
and so the story wanders on through a maze of legendary lore 
until they are met by a company from Tara, with the king at its 
head, who then takes up the role of questioner. The "Colloquy," 
as we have it now, breaks off abruptly as the story how the Lia 
Fail was carried off from Ireland is about to be narrated. 185 The 
interest of the "Colloquy" lies in the tales of Keelta and the lyrics 
introduced in the course of them. Of the tales there are about a 
hundred, telling of Fian raids and battles, and love-makings and 
feastings, but the greater number of them have to do with the 
intercourse between the Fairy Folk and the Fianna. With these 
folk the Fianna have constant relations, both of love and of war. 
Some of the tales are of great elaboration, wrought out in the 
highest style of which the writer was capable. One of the best 
is that of the fairy Brugh, or mansion of Slievenamon, which 
Patrick and Keelta chance to pass by, and of which Keelta tells 
the following history: 

The Brugh of Slievenamon 

One day as Finn and Keelta and five other champions of 
the Fianna were hunting at Torach, in the north, they roused a 
beautiful fawn which fled before them, they holding it in chase 
all day, till they reached the mountain of Slievenamon towards 
evening, when the fawn suddenly seemed to vanish underground. 
A chase like this, in the Ossianic literature, is the common prelude 
to an adventure in Fairyland. Night now fell rapidly, and with 
it came heavy snow and storm, and, searching for shelter, the 
[285] Fianna discovered in the wood a great illuminated Brugh, or 

185 Seep. 105. 


mansion, where they sought admittance. On entering they found 
themselves in a spacious hall, full of light, with eight-and-twenty 
warriors and as many fair and yellow-haired maidens, one of the 
latter seated on a chair of crystal, and making wonderful music 
on a harp. After the Fian warriors have been entertained with 
the finest of viands and liquors, it is explained to them that their 
hosts are Donn, son of Midir the Proud, and his brother, and that 
they are at war with the rest of the Danaan Folk, and have to do 
battle with them thrice yearly on the green before the Brugh. At 
first each of the twenty-eight had a thousand warriors under him. 
Now all are slain except those present, and the survivors have 
sent out one of their maidens in the shape of a fawn to entice 
the Fianna to their fairy palace and to gain their aid in the battle 
that must be delivered to-morrow. We have, in fact, a variant 
of the well-known theme of the Rescue of Fairyland. Finn and 
his companions are always ready for a fray, and a desperate 
battle ensues which lasts from evening till morning, for the fairy 
host attack at night. The assailants are beaten off, losing over 
a thousand of their number; but Oscar, Dermot, and mac Luga 
are sorely wounded. They are healed by magical herbs; and 
more fighting and other adventures follow, until, after a year 
has passed, Finn compels the enemy to make peace and give 
hostages, when the Fianna return to earth and rejoin their fellows. 
No sooner has Keelta finished his tale, standing on the very spot 
where they had found the fairy palace on the night of snow, than 
a young warrior is seen approaching them. He is thus described: 
"A shirt of royal satin was next his skin; over and outside it a 
tunic of the same fabric; and a fringed crimson mantle, confined 
with a bodkin of gold, upon his breast; in his hand a gold-hilted [286] 
sword, and a golden helmet on his head." A delight in the colour 
and material splendour of life is a very marked feature in all this 
literature. This splendid figure turns out to be Donn mac Midir, 
one of the eight-and-twenty whom Finn had succoured, and he 
comes to do homage for himself and his people to St. Patrick, 

246 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

who accepts entertainment from him for the night; for in the 
"Colloquy" the relations of the Church and of the Fairy World 
are very cordial. 

The Three Young Warriors 

Nowhere in Celtic literature does the love of wonder and 
mystery find such remarkable expression as in the "Colloquy." 
The writer of this piece was a master of the touch that makes, 
as it were, the solid framework of things translucent; and shows 
us, through it, gleams of another world, mingled with ours yet 
distinct, and having other laws and characteristics. We never 
get a clue as to what these laws are. The Celt did not, in 
Ireland at least, systematise the unknown, but let it shine for a 
moment through the opaqueness of this earth and then withdrew 
the gleam before we understood what we had seen. Take, for 
instance, this incident in Keelta's account of the Fianna. Three 
young warriors come to take service with Finn, accompanied by 
a gigantic hound. They make their agreement with him, saying 
what services they can render and what reward they expect, and 
they make it a condition that they shall camp apart from the rest 
of the host, and that when night has fallen no man shall come 
near them or see them. 

Finn asks the reason for this prohibition, and it is this: of the 

three warriors one has to die each night, and the other two must 

[287] watch him; therefore they would not be disturbed. There is no 

explanation of this; the writer simply leaves us with the thrill of 

the mystery upon us. 

The Fair Giantess 

Again, let us turn to the tale of the Fair Giantess. One day Finn 
and his warriors, while resting from the chase for their midday 
meal, saw coming towards them a towering shape. It proved 
to be a young giant maiden, who gave her name as Vivionn 
(Bebhionn) daughter of Treon, from the Land of Maidens. The 
gold rings on her fingers were as thick as an ox's yoke, and her 
beauty was dazzling. When she took off her gilded helmet, all 


bejewelled, her fair, curling golden hair broke out in seven score 
tresses, and Finn cried: "Great gods whom we adore, a huge 
marvel Cormac and Ethne and the women of the Fianna would 
esteem it to see Vivionn, the blooming daughter of Treon." The 
maiden explained that she had been betrothed against her will 
to a suitor named iEda, son of a neighbouring king; and that 
hearing from a fisherman, who had been blown to her shores, 
of the power and nobleness of Finn, she had come to seek his 
protection. While she was speaking, suddenly the Fianna were 
aware of another giant form close at hand. It was a young man, 
smooth-featured and of surpassing beauty, who bore a red shield 
and a huge spear. Without a word he drew near, and before the 
wondering Fianna could accost him he thrust his spear through 
the body of the maiden and passed away. Finn, enraged at this 
violation of his protection, called on his chiefs to pursue and slay 
the murderer. Keelta and others chased him to the sea-shore, 
and followed him into the surf, but he strode out to sea, and was 
met by a great galley which bore him away to unknown regions. 
Returning, discomfited, to Finn, they found the girl dying. She [288] 
distributed her gold and jewels among them, and the Fianna 
buried her under a great mound, and raised a pillar stone over 
her with her name in Ogham letters, in the place since called the 
Ridge of the Dead Woman. 

In this tale we have, besides the element of mystery, that of 
beauty. It is an association of frequent occurrence in this period 
of Celtic literature; and to this, perhaps, is due the fact that 
although these tales seem to come from nowhither and to lead 
nowhither, but move in a dream-world where there is no chase 
but seems to end in Fairyland and no combat that has any relation 
to earthly needs or objects, where all realities are apt to dissolve 
in a magic light and to change their shapes like morning mist, yet 
they linger in the memory with that haunting charm which has 
for many centuries kept them alive by the fireside of the Gaelic 

248 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

St. Patrick, Oisln, and Keelta 

Before we leave the "Colloquy" another interesting point 
must be mentioned in connexion with it. To the general public 
probably the best-known things in Ossianic literature — I refer, 
of course, to the true Gaelic poetry which goes under that name, 
not to the pseudo-Ossian of Macpherson — are those dialogues in 
which the pagan and the Christian ideals are contrasted, often 
in a spirit of humorous exaggeration or of satire. The earliest 
of these pieces are found in the manuscript called "The Dean of 
Lismore's Book," in which James Macgregor, Dean of Lismore 
in Argyllshire, wrote down, some time before the year 1518, all 
he could remember or discover of traditional Gaelic poetry in 
his time. It may be observed that up to this period, and, indeed, 
long after it, Scottish and Irish Gaelic were one language and 
one literature, the great written monuments of which were in 
[289] Ireland, though they belonged just as much to the Highland Celt, 

and the two branches of the Gael had an absolutely common 
stock of poetic tradition. These Oism-and-Patrick dialogues 
are found in abundance both in Ireland and in the Highlands, 
though, as I have said, "The Dean of Lismore's Book" is their 
first written record now extant. What relation, then, do these 
dialogues bear to the Keelta-and-Patrick dialogues with which 
we make acquaintance in the "Colloquy"? The questions which 
really came first, where they respectively originated, and what 
current of thought or sentiment each represented, constitute, as 
Mr. Alfred Nutt has pointed out, a literary problem of the greatest 
interest; and one which no critic has yet attempted to solve, or, 
indeed, until quite lately, even to call attention to. For though 
these two attempts to represent, in imaginative and artistic form, 
the contact of paganism with Christianity are nearly identical in 
machinery and framework, save that one is in verse and the other 
in prose, yet they differ widely in their point of view. 

In the Oisln dialogues 186 there is a great deal of rough humour 

Examples of these have been published, with translations, in the 


and of crude theology, resembling those of an English miracle- 
play rather than any Celtic product that I am acquainted with. 
St. Patrick in these ballads, as Mr. Nutt remarks, "is a sour 
and stupid fanatic, harping with wearisome monotony on the 
damnation of Finn and all his comrades; a hard taskmaster to the 
poor old blind giant to whom he grudges food, and upon whom 
he plays shabby tricks in order to terrify him into acceptance of 
Christianity." Now in the "Colloquy" there is not one word of all 
this. Keelta embraces Christianity with a wholehearted reverence, 
and salvation is not denied to the friends and companions of his 
youth. Patrick, indeed, assures Keelta of the salvation of several [290] 
of them, including Finn himself. One of the Danaan Folk, 
who has been bard to the Fianna, delighted Patrick with his 
minstrelsy. Brogan, the scribe whom St. Patrick is employing to 
write down the Fian legends, says: "If music there is in heaven, 
why should there not be on earth? Wherefore it is not right to 
banish minstrelsy." Patrick made answer: "Neither say I any such 
thing"; and, in fact, the minstrel is promised heaven for his art. 

Such are the pleasant relations that prevail in the "Colloquy" 
between the representatives of the two epochs. Keelta represents 
all that is courteous, dignified, generous, and valorous in 
paganism, and Patrick all that is benign and gracious in 
Christianity; and instead of the two epochs standing over against 
each other in violent antagonism, and separated by an impassable 
gulf, all the finest traits in each are seen to harmonise with and 
to supplement those of the other. 

Tales of Dermot 

A number of curious legends centre on Dermot O'Dyna, who 
has been referred to as one of Finn mac Cumhal's most notable 
followers. He might be described as a kind of Gaelic Adonis, a 
type of beauty and attraction, the hero of innumerable love tales; 
and, like Adonis, his death was caused by a wild boar. 

The Boar of Ben Bulben 

"Transactions of the Ossianic Society/ 

250 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The boar was no common beast. The story of its origin was 
as follows: Dermot's father, Donn, gave the child to be nurtured 
by Angus Og in his palace on the Boyne. His mother, who was 
unfaithful to Donn, bore another child to Roc, the steward of 
Angus. Donn, one day, when the steward's child ran between 
his knees to escape from some hounds that were fighting on the 
[291] floor of the hall, gave him a squeeze with his two knees that 

killed him on the spot, and he then flung the body among the 
hounds on the floor. When the steward found his son dead, and 
discovered (with Finn's aid) the cause of it, he brought a Druid 
rod and smote the body with it, whereupon, in place of the dead 
child, there arose a huge boar, without ears or tail; and to it he 
spake: "I charge you to bring Dermot O'Dyna to his death"; and 
the boar rushed out from the hall and roamed in the forests of 
Ben Bulben in Co. Sligo till the time when his destiny should be 

But Dermot grew up into a splendid youth, tireless in the 
chase, undaunted in war, beloved by all his comrades of the 
Fianna, whom he joined as soon as he was of age to do so. 

How Dermot Got the Love Spot 

He was called Dermot of the Love Spot, and a curious and 
beautiful folk-tale recorded by Dr. Douglas Hyde 187 tells how 
he got this appellation. With three comrades, Goll, Conan, and 
Oscar, he was hunting one day, and late at night they sought a 
resting-place. They soon found a hut, in which were an old man, 
a young girl, a wether sheep, and a cat. Here they asked for 
hospitality, and it was granted to them. But, as usual in these 
tales, it was a house of mystery. 

When they sat down to dinner the wether got up and mounted 
on the table. One after another the Fianna strove to throw it off, 
but it shook them down on the floor. At last Goll succeeded in 
flinging it off the table, but him too it vanquished in the end, 

187 Taken down from the recital of a peasant in Co. Galway and published at 
Rennes in Dr. Hyde's "An Sgeuluidhe Gaodhalach," vol. ii. (no translation). 


and put them all under its feet. Then the old man bade the 
cat lead the wether back and fasten it up, and it did so easily. [292] 
The four champions, overcome with shame, were for leaving the 
house at once; but the old man explained that they had suffered 
no discredit — the wether they had been fighting with was the 
World, and the cat was the power that would destroy the world 
itself, namely, Death. 

At night the four heroes went to rest in a large chamber, and 
the young maid came to sleep in the same room; and it is said 
that her beauty made a light on the walls of the room like a 
candle. One after another the Fianna went over to her couch, but 
she repelled them all. "I belonged to you once," she said to each, 
"and I never will again." Last of all Dermot went. "O Dermot," 
she said, "you, also, I belonged to once, and I never can again, 
for I am Youth; but come here and I will put a mark on you so 
that no woman can ever see you without loving you." Then she 
touched his forehead, and left the Love Spot there; and that drew 
the love of women to him as long as he lived. 

The Chase of the Hard Gilly 

The Chase of the Gilla Dacar is another Fian tale in which 
Dermot plays a leading part. The Fianna, the story goes, were 
hunting one day on the hills and through the woods of Munster, 
and as Finn and his captains stood on a hillside listening to the 
baying of the hounds, and the notes of the Fian hunting-horn 
from the dark wood below, they saw coming towards them a 
huge, ugly, misshapen churl dragging along by a halter a great 
raw-boned mare. He announced himself as wishful to take 
service with Finn. The name he was called by, he said, was the 
Gilla Dacar (the Hard Gilly), because he was the hardest servant 
ever a lord had to get service or obedience from. In spite of 
this unpromising beginning, Finn, whose principle it was never [293] 
to refuse any suitor, took him into service; and the Fianna now 
began to make their uncouth comrade the butt of all sorts of rough 
jokes, which ended in thirteen of them, including Conan the Bald, 

252 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

all mounting up on the Gilla Dacar's steed. On this the newcomer 
complained that he was being mocked, and he shambled away 
in great discontent till he was over the ridge of the hill, when he 
tucked up his skirts and ran westwards, faster than any March 
wind, toward the sea-shore in Co. Kerry. Thereupon at once the 
steed, which had stood still with drooping ears while the thirteen 
riders in vain belaboured it to make it move, suddenly threw up 
its head and started off in a furious gallop after its master. The 
Fianna ran alongside, as well as they could for laughter, while 
Conan, in terror and rage, reviled them for not rescuing him and 
his comrades. At last the thing became serious. The Gilla Dacar 
plunged into the sea, and the mare followed him with her thirteen 
riders, and one more who managed to cling to her tail just as 
she left the shore; and all of them soon disappeared towards the 
fabled region of the West. 

Dermot at the Well 

Finn and the remaining Fianna now took counsel together as 
to what should be done, and finally decided to fit out a ship and 
go in search of their comrades. After many days of voyaging 
they reached an island guarded by precipitous cliffs. Dermot 
O'Dyna, as the most agile of the party, was sent to climb them 
and to discover, if he could, some means of helping up the rest 
of the party. When he arrived at the top he found himself in 
a delightful land, full of the song of birds and the humming of 
[294] bees and the murmur of streams, but with no sign of habitation. 

Going into a dark forest, he soon came to a well, by which hung 
a curiously wrought drinking-horn. As he filled it to drink, a 
low, threatening murmur came from the well, but his thirst was 
too keen to let him heed it and he drank his fill. In no long time 
there came through the wood an armed warrior, who violently 
upbraided him for drinking from his well. The Knight of the 
Well and Dermot then fought all the afternoon without either of 
them prevailing over the other, when, as evening drew on, the 
knight suddenly leaped into the well and disappeared. Next day 


the same thing happened; on the third, however, Dermot, as the 
knight was about to take his leap, flung his arms round him, and 
both went down together. 

The Rescue of Fairyland 

Dermot, after a moment of darkness and trance, now found 
himself in Fairyland. A man of noble appearance roused him 
and led him away to the castle of a great king, where he was 
hospitably entertained. It was explained to him that the services 
of a champion like himself were needed to do combat against a 
rival monarch of Faery. It is the same motive which we find in 
the adventures of Cuchulain with Fand, and which so frequently 
turns up in Celtic fairy lore. Finn and his companions, finding 
that Dermot did not return to them, found their way up the cliffs, 
and, having traversed the forest, entered a great cavern which 
ultimately led them out to the same land as that in which Dermot 
had arrived. There too, they are informed, are the fourteen Fianna 
who had been carried off on the mare of the Hard Gilly. He, 
of course, was the king who needed their services, and who had 
taken this method of decoying some thirty of the flower of Irish 
fighting men to his side. Finn and his men go into the battle with 
the best of goodwill, and scatter the enemy like chaff; Oscar slays [295] 
the son of the rival king (who is called the King of "Greece"). 
Finn wins the love of his daughter, Tasha of the White Arms, 
and the story closes with a delightful mixture of gaiety and 
mystery. "What reward wilt thou have for thy good services?" 
asks the fairy king of Finn. "Thou wert once in service with me," 
replies Finn, "and I mind not that I gave thee any recompense. 
Let one service stand against the other." "Never shall I agree 
to that," cries Conan the Bald. "Shall I have nought for being 
carried off on thy wild mare and haled oversea?" "What wilt thou 
have?" asks the fairy king. "None of thy gold or goods," replies 
Conan, "but mine honour hath suffered, and let mine honour be 
appeased. Set thirteen of thy fairest womenfolk on the wild mare, 
O King, and thine own wife clinging to her tail, and let them be 

254 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

transported to Erin in like manner as we were dragged here, and 
I shall deem the indignity we have suffered fitly atoned for." On 
this the king smiled and, turning to Finn, said: "O Finn, behold 
thy men." Finn turned to look at them, but when he looked round 
again the scene had changed — the fairy king and his host and all 
the world of Faery had disappeared, and he found himself with 
his companions and the fair-armed Tasha standing on the beach 
of the little bay in Kerry whence the Hard Gilly and the mare had 
taken the water and carried off his men. And then all started with 
cheerful hearts for the great standing camp of the Fianna on the 
Hill of Allen to celebrate the wedding feast of Finn and Tasha. 

Effect of Christianity on the Development of Irish 

This tale with its fascinating mixture of humour, romance, 
magic, and love of wild nature, may be taken as a typical specimen 
[296] of the Fian legends at their best. As compared with the Conorian 

legends they show, as I have pointed out, a characteristic lack of 
any heroic or serious element. That nobler strain died out with the 
growing predominance of Christianity, which appropriated for 
definitely religious purposes the more serious and lofty side of 
the Celtic genius, leaving for secular literature only the elements 
of wonder and romance. So completely was this carried out 
that while the Finn legends have survived to this day among 
the Gaelic-speaking population, and were a subject of literary 
treatment as long as Gaelic was written at all, the earlier cycle 
perished almost completely out of the popular remembrance, or 
survived only in distorted forms; and but for the early manuscripts 
in which the tales are fortunately enshrined such a work as 
the "Tain Bo Cuailgne" — the greatest thing undoubtedly which 
the Celtic genius ever produced in literature — would now be 
irrecoverably lost. 

The Tales of Deirdre and of Grania 

Nothing can better illustrate the difference between the two 
cycles than a comparison of the tale of Deirdre with that with 


which we have now to deal — the tale of Dermot and Grania. 
The latter, from one point of view, reads like an echo of the 
former, so close is the resemblance between them in the outline 
of the plot. Take the following skeleton story: "A fair maiden 
is betrothed to a renowned and mighty suitor much older than 
herself. She turns from him to seek a younger lover, and fixes her 
attention on one of his followers, a gallant and beautiful youth, 
whom she persuades, in spite of his reluctance, to fly with her. 
After evading pursuit they settle down for a while at a distance 
from the defrauded lover, who bides his time, till at last, under 
cover of a treacherous reconciliation, he procures the death of his 
younger rival and retakes possession of the lady." Were a student [297] 
of Celtic legend asked to listen to the above synopsis, and to say 
to what Irish tale it referred, he would certainly reply that it must 
be either the tale of the Pursuit of Dermot and Grania, or that of 
the Fate of the Sons of Usna; but which of them it was it would 
be quite impossible for him to tell. Yet in tone and temper the 
two stories are as wide apart as the poles. 

Grania and Dermot 

Grania, in the Fian story, is the daughter of Cormac mac Art, 
High King of Ireland. She is betrothed to Finn mac Cumhal, 
whom we are to regard at this period as an old and war-worn 
but still mighty warrior. The famous captains of the Fianna all 
assemble at Tara for the wedding feast, and as they sit at meat 
Grania surveys them and asks their names of her father's Druid, 
Dara. "It is a wonder," she says, "that Finn did not ask me for 
OisTn, rather than for himself." "OisTn would not dare to take 
thee," says Dara. Grania, after going through all the company, 
asks: "Who is that man with the spot on his brow, with the 
sweet voice, with curling dusky hair and ruddy cheek?" "That 
is Dermot O'Dyna," replies the Druid, "the white-toothed, of the 
lightsome countenance, in all the world the best lover of women 
and maidens." Grania now prepares a sleepy draught, which she 
places in a drinking-cup and passes round by her handmaid to 

256 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the king, to Finn, and to all the company except the chiefs of the 
Fianna. When the draught has done its work she goes to OisTn. 
"Wilt thou receive courtship from me, OisTn?" she asks. "That 
will I not," says OisTn, "nor from any woman that is betrothed to 
Finn." Grania, who knew very well what Oism's answer would 
be, now turns to her real mark, Dermot. He at first refuses to 
[298] have anything to do with her. "I put thee under bonds [geise], O 

Dermot, that thou take me out of Tara to-night." "Evil are these 
bonds, Grania," says Dermot; "and wherefore hast thou put them 
on me before all the kings' sons that feast at this table?" Grania 
then explains that she has loved Dermot ever since she saw him, 
years ago, from her sunny bower, take part in and win a great 
hurling match on the green at Tara. Dermot, still very reluctant, 
pleads the merits of Finn, and urges also that Finn has the keys 
of the royal fortress, so that they cannot pass out at night. "There 
is a secret wicket-gate in my bower," says Grania. "I am under 
geise not to pass through any wicket-gate," replies Dermot, still 
struggling against his destiny. Grania will have none of these 
subterfuges — any Fian warrior, she has been told, can leap over 
a palisade with the aid of his spear as a jumping-pole; and she 
goes off to make ready for the elopement. Dermot, in great 
perplexity, appeals to OisTn, Oscar, Keelta, and the others as to 
what he should do. They all bid him keep his geise — the bonds 
that Grania had laid on him to succour her — and he takes leave 
of them with tears. 

Outside the wicket-gate he again begs Grania to return. "It is 
certain that I will not go back," says Grania, "nor part from thee 
till death part us." "Then go forward, O Grania," says Dermot. 
After they had gone a mile, "I am truly weary, O grandson 
of Dyna," says Grania. "It is a good time to be weary," says 
Dermot, making a last effort to rid himself of the entanglement, 
"and return now to thy household again, for I pledge the word of 
a true warrior that I will never carry thee nor any other woman to 
all eternity." "There is no need," replies Grania, and she directs 


him where to find horses and a chariot, and Dermot, now finally 
accepting the inevitable, yokes them, and they proceed on their [299] 
way to the Ford of Luan on the Shannon. 188 

The Pursuit 

Next day Finn, burning with rage, sets out with his warriors 
on their track. He traces out each of their halting-places, and 
finds the hut of wattles which Dermot has made for their shelter, 
and the bed of soft rushes, and the remains of the meal they 
had eaten. And at each place he finds a piece of unbroken 
bread or uncooked salmon — Dermot's subtle message to Finn 
that he has respected the rights of his lord and treated Grania as 
a sister. But this delicacy of Dermot's is not at all to Crania's 
mind, and she conveys her wishes to him in a manner which is 
curiously paralleled by an episode in the tale of Tristan and Iseult 
of Brittany, as told by Heinrich von Freiberg. They are passing 
through a piece of wet ground when a splash of water strikes 
Grania. She turns to her companion: "Thou art a mighty warrior, 
O Dermot, in battle and sieges and forays, yet meseems that this 
drop of water is bolder than thou." This hint that he was keeping 
at too respectful a distance was taken by Dermot. The die is now 
cast, and he will never again meet Finn and his old comrades 
except at the point of the spear. 

The tale now loses much of the originality and charm of its 
opening scene, and recounts in a somewhat mechanical manner 
a number of episodes in which Dermot is attacked or besieged 
by the Fianna, and rescues himself and his lady by miracles of 
boldness or dexterity, or by aid of the magical devices of his 
foster-father, Angus Og. They are chased all over Ireland, and 
the dolmens in that country are popularly associated with them, [300] 
being called in the traditions of the peasantry "Beds of Dermot 
and Grania." 

Grania's character is drawn throughout with great consistency. 

188 Now Athlone (Atha Luain). 

258 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

She is not an heroic woman — hers are not the simple, ardent 
impulses and unwavering devotion of a Deirdre. The latter is far 
more primitive. Grania is a curiously modern and what would 
be called "neurotic" type — wilful, restless, passionate, but full of 
feminine fascination. 

Dermot and Finn Make Peace 

After sixteen years of outlawry peace is at last made for 
Dermot by the mediation or Angus with King Cormac and with 
Finn. Dermot receives his proper patrimony, the Cantred of 
O'Dyna, and other lands far away in the West, and Cormac 
gives another of his daughters to Finn. "Peaceably they abode 
a long time with each other, and it was said that no man then 
living was richer in gold and silver, in flocks and herds, than 
Dermot O'Dyna, nor one that made more preys." 189 Grania bears 
to Dermot four sons and a daughter. 

But Grania is not satisfied until "the two best men that are 
in Erin, namely, Cormac son of Art and Finn son of Cumhal," 
have been entertained in her house. "And how do we know," 
she adds, "but our daughter might then get a fitting husband?" 
Dermot agrees with some misgiving; the king and Finn accept 
the invitation, and they and their retinues are feasted for a year 
[301] at Rath Grania. 

The Vengeance of Finn 

Then one night, towards the end of the year of feasting, Dermot 
is awakened from sleep by the baying of a hound. He starts up, 
"so that Grania caught him and threw her two arms about him 
and asked him what he had seen." "It is the voice of a hound," 
says Dermot, "and I marvel to hear it in the night." "Save and 
protect thee," says Grania; "it is the Danaan Folk that are at work 

189 How significant is this naive indication that the making of forays on 
his neighbours was regarded in Celtic Ireland as the natural and laudable 
occupation of a country gentleman! Compare Spenser's account of the ideals 
fostered by the Irish bards of his time, "View of the Present State of Ireland," 
p. 641 (Globe edition). 


on thee. Lay thee down again." But three times the hound's voice 
awakens him, and on the morrow he goes forth armed with sword 
and sling, and followed by his own hound, to see what is afoot. 

On the mountain of Ben Bulben in Sligo he comes across Finn 
with a hunting-party of the Fianna. They are not now hunting, 
however; they are being hunted; for they have roused up the 
enchanted boar without ears or tail, the Boar of Ben Bulben, 
which has slain thirty of them that morning. "And do thou come 
away," says Finn, knowing well that Dermot will never retreat 
from a danger; "for thou art under geise not to hunt pig." "How 
is that?" says Dermot, and Finn then tells him the weird story of 
the death of the steward's son and his revivification in the form 
of this boar, with its mission of vengeance. "By my word," quoth 
Dermot, "it is to slay me that thou hast made this hunt, O Finn; 
and if it be here that I am fated to die, I have no power now to 
shun it." 

The beast then appears on the face of the mountain, and 
Dermot slips the hound at him, but the hound flies in terror. 
Dermot then slings a stone which strikes the boar fairly in the 
middle of his forehead but does not even scratch his skin. The 
beast is close on him now, and Dermot strikes him with his 
sword, but the weapon flies in two and not a bristle of the boar 
is cut. In the charge of the boar Dermot falls over him, and is [302] 
carried for a space clinging to his back; but at last the boar shakes 
him off to the ground, and making "an eager, exceeding mighty 
spring" upon him, rips out his bowels, while at the same time, 
with the hilt of the sword still in his hand, Dermot dashes out the 
brains of the beast, and it falls dead beside him. 

Death of Dermot 

The implacable Finn then comes up, and stands over Dermot 
in his agony. "It likes me well to see thee in that plight, O 
Dermot," he says, "and I would that all the women in Ireland 
saw thee now; for thy excellent beauty is turned to ugliness and 
thy choice form to deformity." Dermot reminds Finn of how he 

260 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

once rescued him from deadly peril when attacked during a feast 
at the house of Derc, and begs him to heal him with a draught 
of water from his hands, for Finn had the magic gift of restoring 
any wounded man to health with a draught of well-water drawn 
in his two hands. "Here is no well," says Finn. "That is not true," 
says Dermot, "for nine paces from you is the best well of pure 
water in the world." Finn, at last, on the entreaty of Oscar and the 
Fianna, and after the recital of many deeds done for his sake by 
Dermot in old days, goes to the well, but ere he brings the water 
to Dermot's side he lets it fall through his fingers. A second time 
he goes, and a second time he lets the water fall, "having thought 
upon Grania," and Dermot gave a sigh of anguish on seeing it. 
Oscar then declares that if Finn does not bring the water promptly 
either he or Finn shall never leave the hill alive, and Finn goes 
once more to the well, but it is now too late; Dermot is dead 
before the healing draught can reach his lips. Then Finn takes the 
[303] hound of Dermot, the chiefs of the Fianna lay their cloaks over 

the dead man, and they return to Rath Grania. Grania, seeing the 
hound led by Finn, conjectures what has happened, and swoons 
upon the rampart of the Rath. OisTn, when she has revived, gives 
her the hound, against Finn's will, and the Fianna troop away, 
leaving her to her sorrow. When the people of Grania's household 
go out to fetch in the body of Dermot they find there Angus Og 
and his company of the People of Dana, who, after raising three 
bitter and terrible cries, bear away the body on a gilded bier, and 
Angus declares that though he cannot restore the dead to life, "I 
will send a soul into him so that he may talk with me each day." 

The End of Grania 

To a tale like this modern taste demands a romantic and 
sentimental ending; and such has actually been given to it in the 
retelling by Dr. P. W. Joyce in his "Old Celtic Romances," as 
it has to the tale of Deirdre by almost every modern writer who 


has handled it. 190 But the Celtic story-teller felt differently. The 
tale of the end of Deirdre is horribly cruel, that of Grania cynical 
and mocking; neither is in the least sentimental. Grania is at 
first enraged with Finn, and sends her sons abroad to learn feats 
of arms, so that they may take vengeance upon him when the 
time is ripe. But Finn, wily and far-seeing as he is portrayed in 
this tale, knows how to forestall this danger. When the tragedy 
on Ben Bulben has begun to grow a little faint in the shallow 
soul of Grania, he betakes himself to her, and though met at first 
with scorn and indignation he woos her so sweetly and with such 
tenderness that at last he brings her to his will, and he bears her [304] 
back as a bride to the Hill of Allen. When the Fianna see the 
pair coming towards them in this loving guise they burst into a 
shout of laughter and derision, "so that Grania bowed her head 
in shame." "We trow, O Finn," cries OisTn, "that thou wilt keep 
Grania well from henceforth." So Grania made peace between 
Finn and her sons, and dwelt with Finn as his wife until he died. 

Two Streams of Fian Legends 

It will be noticed that in this legend Finn does not appear 
as a sympathetic character. Our interest is all on the side of 
Dermot. In this aspect of it the tale is typical of a certain class 
of Fian stories. Just as there were two rival clans within the 
Fian organisation — the Clan Bascna and the Clan Morna — who 
sometimes came to blows for the supremacy, so there are two 
streams of legends seeming to flow respectively from one or 
other of these sources, in one of which Finn is glorified, while in 
the other he is belittled in favour of Goll mac Morna or any other 
hero with whom he comes into conflict. 

End of the Fianna 

The story of the end of the Fianna is told in a number of 
pieces, some prose, some poetry, all of them, however, agreeing 
in presenting this event as a piece of sober history, without any 

190 Dr. John Todhunter, in his "Three Irish Bardic Tales," has alone, I think, 
kept the antique ending of the tale of Deirdre. 

262 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

of the supernatural and mystical atmosphere in which nearly all 
the Fian legends are steeped. 

After the death of Cormac mac Art his son Cairbry came to 
the High-Kingship of Ireland. He had a fair daughter named 
Sgeimh Solais (Light of Beauty), who was asked in marriage by 
a son of the King of the Decies. The marriage was arranged, 
and the Fianna claimed a ransom or tribute of twenty ingots of 
gold, which, it is said, was customarily paid to them on these 
[305] occasions. It would seem that the Fianna had now grown to 

be a distinct power within the State, and an oppressive one, 
exacting heavy tributes and burdensome privileges from kings 
and sub-kings all over Ireland. Cairbry resolved to break them; 
and he thought he had now a good opportunity to do so. He 
therefore refused payment of the ransom, and summoned all the 
provincial kings to help him against the Fianna, the main body 
of whom immediately went into rebellion for what they deemed 
their rights. The old feud between Clan Bascna and Clan Morna 
now broke out afresh, the latter standing by the High King, while 
Clan Bascna, aided by the King of Munster and his forces, who 
alone took their side, marched against Cairbry. 

The Battle of Gowra 

All this sounds very matter-of-fact and probable, but how 
much real history there may be in it it is very hard to say. The 
decisive battle of the war which ensued took place at Gowra 
(Gabhra), the name of which survives in Garristown, Co. Dublin. 
The rival forces, when drawn up in battle array, knelt and kissed 
the sacred soil of Erin before they charged. The story of the 
battle in the poetical versions, one of which is published in the 
Ossianic Society's "Transactions," and another and finer one in 
Campbell's "The Fians," 191 is supposed to be related by OisTn to 
St. Patrick. He lays great stress on the feats of his son Oscar: 

191 "Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition," Argyllshire Series. The tale was 
taken down in verse, word for word, from the dictation of Roderick mac Fadyen 
inTiree, 1868. 


"My son urged his course 

Through the battalions of Tara 

Like a hawk through a flock of birds, 

Or a rock descending a mountain-side." 


The Death of Oscar 

The fight was a outrance, and the slaughter on both sides 
tremendous. None but old men and boys, it is said, were left in 
Erin after that fight. The Fianna were in the end almost entirely 
exterminated, and Oscar slain. He and the King of Ireland, 
Cairbry, met in single combat, and each of them slew the other. 
While Oscar was still breathing, though there was not a palm's 
breadth on his body without a wound, his father found him: 

"I found my own son lying down 
On his left elbow, his shield by his side; 
His right hand clutched the sword, 
The blood poured through his mail 

"Oscar gazed up at me — 
Woe to me was that sight! 
He stretched out his two arms to me, 
Endeavouring to rise to meet me. 

"I grasped the hand of my son 
And sat down by his left side; 
And since I sat by him there, 
I have recked nought of the world." 

When Finn (in the Scottish version) comes to bewail his 
grandson, he cries: 

"Woe, that it was not I who fell 
In the fight of bare sunny Gavra, 
And you were east and west 
Marching before the Fians, Oscar." 


264 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

But Oscar replies: 

"Were it you that fell 
In the fight of bare sunny Gavra, 
One sigh, east or west, 
Would not be heard for you from Oscar. 

"No man ever knew 
A heart of flesh was in my breast, 
But a heart of the twisted horn 
And a sheath of steel over it. 

"But the howling of dogs beside me, 
And the wail of the old heroes, 
And the weeping of the women by turns, 
Tis that vexes my heart." 

Oscar dies, after thanking the gods for his father's safety, and 
OisTn and Keelta raise him on a bier of spears and carry him off 
under his banner, "The Terrible Sheaf," for burial on the field 
where he died, and where a great green burial mound is still 
associated with his name. Finn takes no part in the battle. He 
is said to have come "in a ship" to view the field afterwards, 
and he wept over Oscar, a thing he had never done save once 
before, for his hound, Bran, whom he himself killed by accident. 
Possibly the reference to the ship is an indication that he had by 
this time passed away, and came to revisit the earth from the 
oversea kingdom of Death. 

There is in this tale of the Battle of Gowra a melancholy 
grandeur which gives it a place apart in the Ossianic literature. 
It is a fitting dirge for a great legendary epoch. Campbell tells 
us that the Scottish crofters and shepherds were wont to put 
off their bonnets when they recited it. He adds a strange and 
thrilling piece of modern folk-lore bearing on it. Two men, it is 
said, were out at night, probably sheep-stealing or on some other 
predatory occupation, and telling Fian tales as they went, when 


they observed two giant and shadowy figures talking to each 
other across the glen. One of the apparitions said to the other: 
"Do you see that man down below? I was the second door-post 
of battle on the day of Gowra, and that man there knows all about 
it better than myself." [308] 

The End of Finn 

As to Finn himself, it is strange that in all the extant mass of 
the Ossianic literature there should be no complete narrative of 
his death. There are references to it in the poetic legends, and 
annalists even date it, but the references conflict with each other, 
and so do the dates. There is no clear light to be obtained on the 
subject from either annalists or poets. Finn seems to have melted 
into the magic mist which enwraps so many of his deeds in life. 
Yet a popular tradition says that he and his great companions, 
Oscar and Keelta and OisTn and the rest, never died, but lie, like 
Kaiser Barbarossa, spell-bound in an enchanted cave where they 
await the appointed time to reappear in glory and redeem their 
land from tyranny and wrong. 



Besides the legends which cluster round great heroic names, and 
have, or at least pretend to have, the character of history, there 
are many others, great and small, which tell of adventures lying 
purely in regions of romance, and out of earthly space and time. 
As a specimen of these I give here a summary of the "Voyage 

266 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

of Maeldun," a most curious and brilliant piece of invention, 
which is found in the manuscript entitled the "Book of the Dun 
Cow" (about 1100) and other early sources, and edited, with 
a translation (to which I owe the following extracts), by Dr. 
Whitley Stokes in the "Revue Celtique" for 1888 and 1889. It is 
only one of a number of such wonder-voyages found in ancient 
Irish literature, but it is believed to have been the earliest of them 
all and model for the rest, and it has had the distinction, in the 
abridged and modified form given by Joyce in his "Old Celtic 
Romances," of having furnished the theme for the "Voyage of 
Maeldune" to Tennyson, who made it into a wonderful creation 
of rhythm and colour, embodying a kind of allegory of Irish 
history. It will be noticed at the end that we are in the unusual 
position of knowing the name of the author of this piece of 
primitive literature, though he does not claim to have composed, 
but only to have "put in order," the incidents of the "Voyage." 
Unfortunately we cannot tell when he lived, but the tale as we 
have it probably dates from the ninth century. Its atmosphere is 
entirely Christian, and it has no mythological significance except 
in so far as it teaches the lesson that the oracular injunctions 
of wizards should be obeyed. No adventure, or even detail, of 
[310] importance is omitted in the following summary of the story, 

which is given thus fully because the reader may take it as 
representing a large and important section of Irish legendary 
romance. Apart from the source to which I am indebted, the 
"Revue Celtique," I know no other faithful reproduction in 
English of this wonderful tale. 

The "Voyage of Maeldun" begins, as Irish tales often do, by 
telling us of the conception of its hero. 

There was a famous man of the sept of the Owens of Aran, 
named Ailill Edge-of-Battle, who went with his king on a foray 
into another territory. They encamped one night near a church 
and convent of nuns. At midnight Ailill, who was near the 
church, saw a certain nun come out to strike the bell for nocturns, 


and caught her by the hand. In ancient Ireland religious persons 
were not much respected in time of war, and Ailill did not respect 
her. When they parted, she said to him: "Whence is thy race, and 
what is thy name?" Said the hero: "Ailill of the Edge-of-Battle is 
my name, and I am of the Owenacht of Aran, in Thomond." 

Not long afterwards Ailill was slain by reavers from Leix, 
who burned the church of Doocloone over his head. 

In due time a son was born to the woman and she called his 
name Maeldun. He was taken secretly to her friend, the queen of 
the territory, and by her Maeldun was reared. "Beautiful indeed 
was his form, and it is doubtful if there hath been in flesh any one 
so beautiful as he. So he grew up till he was a young warrior and 
fit to use weapons. Great, then, was his brightness and his gaiety 
and his playfulness. In his play he outwent all his comrades in 
throwing balls, and in running and leaping and putting stones 
and racing horses." 

One day a proud young warrior who had been defeated by [311] 
him taunted him with his lack of knowledge of his kindred and 
descent. Maeldun went to his foster-mother, the queen, and said: 
"I will not eat nor drink till thou tell me who are my mother and 
my father." "I am thy mother," said the queen, "for none ever 
loved her son more than I love thee." But Maeldun insisted on 
knowing all, and the queen at last took him to his own mother, 
the nun, who told him: "Thy father was Ailill of the Owens of 
Aran." Then Maeldun went to his own kindred, and was well 
received by them; and with him he took as guests his three 
beloved foster-brothers, sons of the king and queen who had 
brought him up. 

After a time Maeldun happened to be among a company of 
young warriors who were contending at putting the stone in the 
graveyard of the ruined church of Doocloone. Maeldun's foot 
was planted, as he heaved the stone, on a scorched and blackened 
flagstone; and one who was by, a monk named Briccne, 192 said 

192 Here we have evidently a reminiscence of Briccriu of the Poisoned Tongue, 

268 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

to him: "It were better for thee to avenge the man who was burnt 
there than to cast stones over his burnt bones." 

"Who was that?" asked Maeldun. 

"Ailill, thy father," they told him. 

"Who slew him?" said he. 

"Reavers from Leix," they said, "and they destroyed him on 
this spot." 

Then Maeldun threw down the stone he was about to cast, and 
put his mantle round him and went home; and he asked the way 
[312] to Leix. They told him he could only go there by sea. 193 

At the advice of a Druid he then built him a boat, or coracle, 
of skins lapped threefold one over the other; and the wizard also 
told him that seventeen men only must accompany him, and on 
what day he must begin the boat and on what day he must put 
out to sea. 

So when his company was ready he put out and hoisted the 
sail, but had gone only a little way when his three foster-brothers 
came down to the beach and entreated him to take them. "Get 
you home," said Maeldun, "for none but the number I have may 
go with me." But the three youths would not be separated from 
Maeldun, and they flung themselves into the sea. He turned 
back, lest they should be drowned, and brought them into his 
boat. All, as we shall see, were punished for this transgression, 
and Maeldun condemned to wandering until expiation had been 

Irish bardic tales excel in their openings. In this case, as usual, 
the mise-en-scene is admirably contrived. The narrative which 
follows tells how, after seeing his father's slayer on an island, 
but being unable to land there, Maeldun and his party are blown 
out to sea, where they visit a great number of islands and have 
many strange adventures on them. The tale becomes, in fact, a 

the mischief-maker of the Ultonians. 

193 The Arans are three islands at the entrance of Galway Bay. They are a 

perfect museum of mysterious ruins. 


cento of stories and incidents, some not very interesting, while 
in others, as in the adventure of the Island of the Silver Pillar, or 
the Island of the Flaming Rampart, or that where the episode of 
the eagle takes place, the Celtic sense of beauty, romance, and 
mystery find an expression unsurpassed, perhaps, in literature. 

In the following rendering I have omitted the verses given by 
Joyce at the end of each adventure. They merely recapitulate 
the prose narrative, and are not found in the earliest manuscript 
authorities. [313] 

The Island of the Slaves 

Maeldun and his crew had rowed all day and half the night 
when they came to two small bare islands with two forts in them, 
and a noise was heard from them of armed men quarrelling. 
"Stand off from me," cried one of them, "for I am a better man 
than thou. 'Twas I slew Ailill of the Edge-of-Battle and burned 
the church of Doocloone over him, and no kinsman has avenged 
his death on me. And thou hast never done the like of that." 

Then Maeldun was about to land, and German 194 and Diuran 
the Rhymer cried that God had guided them to the spot where 
they would be. But a great wind arose suddenly and blew them 
off into the boundless ocean, and Maeldun said to his foster- 
brothers: "Ye have caused this to be, casting yourselves on board 
in spite of the words of the Druid." And they had no answer, save 
only to be silent for a little space. 

The Island of the Ants 

They drifted three days and three nights, not knowing whither 
to row, when at the dawn of the third day they heard the noise of 
breakers, and came to an island as soon as the sun was up. Here, 
ere they could land, they met a swarm of ferocious ants, each the 
size of a foal, that came down the strand and into the sea to get at 
them; so they made off quickly, and saw no land for three days 

-the "G" hard. 

270 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

The Island of the Great Birds 

This was a terraced island, with trees all round it, and great 

birds sitting on the trees. Maeldun landed first alone, and 

[314] carefully searched the island for any evil thing, but finding none, 

the rest followed him, and killed and ate many of the birds, 

bringing others on board their boat. 

The Island of the Fierce Beast 

A great sandy island was this, and on it a beast like a horse, 
but with clawed feet like a hound's. He flew at them to devour 
them, but they put off in time, and were pelted by the beast with 
pebbles from the shore as they rowed away. 

The Island of the Giant Horses 

A great, flat island, which it fell by lot to German and Diuran 
to explore first. They found a vast green racecourse, on which 
were the marks of horses' hoofs, each as big as the sail of a ship, 
and the shells of nuts of monstrous size were lying about, and 
much plunder. So they were afraid, and took ship hastily again, 
and from the sea they saw a horse-race in progress and heard 
the shouting of a great multitude cheering on the white horse 
or the brown, and saw the giant horses running swifter than the 
wind. 195 So they rowed away with all their might, thinking they 
had come upon an assembly of demons. 

The Island of the Stone Door 

A full week passed, and then they found a great, high island 
with a house standing on the shore. A door with a valve of stone 
opened into the sea, and through it the sea-waves kept hurling 
salmon into the house. Maeldun and his party entered, and found 
[315] the house empty of folk, but a great bed lay ready for the chief to 

whom it belonged, and a bed for each three of his company, and 

195 Horse-racing was a particular delight to the ancient Irish, and is mentioned 
in a ninth-century poem in praise of May as one of the attractions of that month. 
The name of the month of May given in an ancient Gaulish calendar means 
"the month of horse-racing." 


meat and drink beside each bed. Maeldun and his party ate and 
drank their fill, and then sailed off again. 

The Island of the Apples 

By the time they had come here they had been a long time 
voyaging, and food had failed them, and they were hungry. This 
island had precipitous sides from which a wood hung down, and 
as they passed along the cliffs Maeldun broke off a twig and held 
it in his hand. Three days and nights they coasted the cliff and 
found no entrance to the island, but by that time a cluster of three 
apples had grown on the end of Maeldun's rod, and each apple 
sufficed the crew for forty days. 

The Island of the Wondrous Beast 

This island had a fence of stone round it, and within the fence 
a huge beast that raced round and round the island. And anon it 
went to the top of the island, and then performed a marvellous 
feat, viz., it turned its body round and round inside its skin, the 
skin remaining unmoved, while again it would revolve its skin 
round and round the body. When it saw the party it rushed at 
them, but they escaped, pelted with stones as they rowed away. 
One of the stones pierced through Maeldun's shield and lodged 
in the keel of the boat. 

The Island of the Biting Horses 

Here were many great beasts resembling horses, that tore 
continually pieces of flesh from each other's sides, so that all the 
island ran with blood. They rowed hastily away, and were now 
disheartened and full of complaints, for they knew not where [316] 
they were, nor how to find guidance or aid in their quest. 

The Island of the Fiery Swine 

With great weariness, hunger, and thirst they arrived at the 
tenth island, which was full of trees loaded with golden apples. 
Under the trees went red beasts, like fiery swine, that kicked 
the trees with their legs, when the apples fell and the beasts 
consumed them. The beasts came out at morning only, when a 
multitude of birds left the island, and swam out to sea till nones, 

272 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

when they turned and swam inward again till vespers, and ate the 
apples all night. 

Maeldun and his comrades landed at night, and felt the soil hot 
under their feet from the fiery swine in their caverns underground. 
They collected all the apples they could, which were good both 
against hunger and thirst, and loaded their boat with them and 
put to sea once more, refreshed. 

The Island of the Little Cat 

The apples had failed them when they came hungry and 
thirsting to the eleventh island. This was, as it were, a tall white 
tower of chalk reaching up to the clouds, and on the rampart 
about it were great houses white as snow. They entered the 
largest of them, and found no man in it, but a small cat playing on 
four stone pillars which were in the midst of the house, leaping 
from one to the other. It looked a little on the Irish warriors, but 
did not cease from its play. On the walls of the houses there 
were three rows of objects hanging up, one row of brooches of 
gold and silver, and one of neck-torques of gold and silver, each 
as big as the hoop of a cask, and one of great swords with gold 
[317] and silver hilts. Quilts and shining garments lay in the room, and 

there, also, were a roasted ox and a flitch of bacon and abundance 
of liquor. "Hath this been left for us?" said Maeldun to the cat. 
It looked at him a moment, and then continued its play. So there 
they ate and drank and slept, and stored up what remained of the 
food. Next day, as they made to leave the house, the youngest 
of Maeldun's foster-brothers took a necklace from the wall, and 
was bearing it out when the cat suddenly "leaped through him 
like a fiery arrow," and he fell, a heap of ashes, on the floor. 
Thereupon Maeldun, who had forbidden the theft of the jewel, 
soothed the cat and replaced the necklace, and they strewed the 
ashes of the dead youth on the sea-shore, and put to sea again. 

The Island of the Black and the White Sheep 

This had a brazen palisade dividing it in two, and a flock of 
black sheep on one side and of white sheep on the other. Between 


them was a big man who tended the flocks, and sometimes he put 
a white sheep among the black, when it became black at once, 
or a black sheep among the white, when it immediately turned 
white. 196 By way of an experiment Maeldun flung a peeled white 
wand on the side of the black sheep. It at once turned black, 
whereat they left the place in terror, and without landing. 

The Island of the Giant Cattle 

A great and wide island with a herd of huge swine on it. They 
killed a small pig and roasted it on the spot, as it was too great 
to carry on board. The island rose up into a very high mountain, 
and Diuran and German went to view the country from the top 
of it. On their way they met a broad river. To try the depth of [318] 
the water German dipped in the haft of his spear, which at once 
was consumed as with liquid fire. On the other bank was a huge 
man guarding what seemed a herd of oxen. He called to them not 
to disturb the calves, so they went no further and speedily sailed 

The Island of the Mill 

Here they found a great and grim-looking mill, and a giant 
miller grinding corn in it. "Half the corn of your country," he 
said, "is ground here. Here comes to be ground all that men 
begrudge to each other." Heavy and many were the loads they 
saw going to it, and all that was ground in it was carried away 
westwards. So they crossed themselves and sailed away. 

The Island of the Black Mourners 

An island full of black people continually weeping and 
lamenting. One of the two remaining foster-brothers landed 
on it, and immediately turned black and fell to weeping like the 
rest. Two others went to fetch him; the same fate befell them. 
Four others then went with their heads wrapped in cloths, that 
they should not look on the land or breathe the air of the place, 
and they seized two of the lost ones and brought them away 

196 The same phenomenon is recorded as being witnessed by Peredur in the 
Welsh tale of that name in the "Mabinogion." 

274 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

perforce, but not the foster-brother. The two rescued ones could 
not explain their conduct except by saying that they had to do as 
they saw others doing about them. 

The Island of the Four Fences 

Four fences of gold, silver, brass, and crystal divided this 
island into four parts, kings in one, queens in another, warriors 
[319] in a third, maidens in the fourth. 

On landing, a maiden gave them food like cheese, that tasted 
to each man as he wished it to be, and an intoxicating liquor that 
put them asleep for three days. When they awoke they were at 
sea in their boat, and of the island and its inhabitants nothing was 
to be seen. 

The Island of the Glass Bridge 

Here we come to one of the most elaborately wrought and 
picturesque of all the incidents of the voyage. The island they 
now reached had on it a fortress with a brazen door, and a bridge 
of glass leading to it. When they sought to cross the bridge it 
threw them backward. 197 A woman came out of the fortress with 
a pail in her hand, and lifting from the bridge a slab of glass 
she let down her pail into the water beneath, and returned to 
the fortress. They struck on the brazen portcullis before them to 
gain admittance, but the melody given forth by the smitten metal 
plunged them in slumber till the morrow morn. Thrice over this 
happened, the woman each time making an ironical speech about 
Maeldun. On the fourth day, however, she came out to them 
over the bridge, wearing a white mantle with a circlet of gold on 
her hair, two silver sandals on her rosy feet, and a filmy silken 
smock next her skin. 

"My welcome to thee, O Maeldun," she said, and she 
welcomed each man of the crew by his own name. Then 
she took them into the great house and allotted a couch to 
the chief, and one for each three of his men. She gave them 

197 Like the bridge to Skatha't dun, p. li 


abundance of food and drink, all out of her one pail, each man 
finding in it what he most desired. When she had departed they 
asked Maeldun if they should woo the maiden for him. "How 
would it hurt you to speak with her?" says Maeldun. They do so, [320] 
and she replies: "I know not, nor have ever known, what sin is." 
Twice over this is repeated. "To-morrow," she says at last, "you 
shall have your answer." When the morning breaks, however, 
they find themselves once more at sea, with no sign of the island 
or fortress or lady. 

The Island of the Shouting Birds 

They hear from afar a great cry and chanting, as it were a 
singing of psalms, and rowing for a day and night they come 
at last to an island full of birds, black, brown, and speckled, all 
shouting and speaking. They sail away without landing. 

The Island of the Anchorite 

Here they found a wooded island full of birds, and on it a 
solitary man, whose only clothing was his hair. They asked him 
of his country and kin. He tells them that he was a man of 
Ireland who had put to sea 198 with a sod of his native country 
under his feet. God had turned the sod into an island, adding a 
foot's breadth to it and one tree for every year. The birds are his 
kith and kin, and they all wait there till Doomsday, miraculously 
nourished by angels. He entertained them for three nights, and 
then they sailed away. 

The Island of the Miraculous Fountain 

This island had a golden rampart, and a soft white soil like 
down. In it they found another anchorite clothed only in his hair. 
There was a fountain in it which yields whey or water on Fridays [321] 
and Wednesdays, milk on Sundays and feasts of martyrs, and ale 

198 Probably we are to understand that he was an anchorite seeking for an 
islet on which to dwell in solitude and contemplation. The western islands of 
Ireland abound in the ruins of huts and oratories built by single monks or little 

276 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

and wine on the feasts of Apostles, of Mary, of John the Baptist, 
and on the high tides of the year. 

The Island of the Smithy 

As they approached this they heard from afar as it were the 
clanging of a tremendous smithy, and heard men talking of 
themselves. "Little boys they seem," said one, "in a little trough 
yonder." They rowed hastily away, but did not turn their boat, so 
as not to seem to be flying; but after a while a giant smith came 
out of the forge holding in his tongs a huge mass of glowing iron, 
which he cast after them, and all the sea boiled round it, as it fell 
astern of their boat. 

The Sea of Clear Glass 

After that they voyaged until they entered a sea that resembled 
green glass. Such was its purity that the gravel and the sand of 
the sea were clearly visible through it; and they saw no monsters 
or beasts therein among the crags, but only the pure gravel and 
the green sand. For a long space of the day they were voyaging 
in that sea, and great was its splendour and its beauty. 199 

The Undersea Island 

They next found themselves in a sea, thin like mist, that 
seemed as if it would not support their boat. In the depths they 
saw roofed fortresses, and a fair land around them. A monstrous 
beast lodged in a tree there, with droves of cattle about it, and 
beneath it an armed warrior. In spite of the warrior, the beast ever 
[322] and anon stretched down a long neck and seized one of the cattle 

and devoured it. Much dreading lest they should sink through 
that mist-like sea, they sailed over it and away. 

The Island of the Prophecy 

When they arrived here they found the water rising in high 
cliffs round the island, and, looking down, saw on it a crowd of 
people, who screamed at them, "It is they, it is they," till they 
were out of breath. Then came a woman and pelted them from 

Tennyson has been particularly happy in his description of these undersea 


below with large nuts, which they gathered and took with them. 
As they went they heard the folk crying to each other: "Where 
are they now?" "They are gone away." "They are not." "It is 
likely," says the tale, "that there was some one concerning whom 
the islanders had a prophecy that he would ruin their country and 
expel them from their land." 

The Island of the Spouting Water 

Here a great stream spouted out of one side of the island and 
arched over it like a rainbow, falling on the strand at the further 
side. And when they thrust their spears into the stream above 
them they brought out salmon from it as much as they would, 
and the island was filled with the stench of those they could not 
carry away. 

The Island of the Silvern Column 

The next wonder to which they came forms one of the most 
striking and imaginative episodes of the voyage. It was a great 
silvern column, four-square, rising from the sea. Each of its four 
sides was as wide as two oar-strokes of the boat. Not a sod of 
earth was at its foot, but it rose from the boundless ocean and [323] 
its summit was lost in the sky. From that summit a huge silver 
net was flung far away into the sea, and through a mesh of that 
net they sailed. As they did so Diuran hacked away a piece of 
the net. "Destroy it not," said Maeldun, "for what we see is 
the work of mighty men." Diuran said: "For the praise of God's 
name I do this, that our tale may be believed, and if I reach 
Ireland again this piece of silver shall be offered by me on the 
high altar of Armagh." Two ounces and a half it weighed when 
it was measured afterwards in Armagh. 

"And then they heard a voice from the summit of yonder 
pillar, mighty, clear, and distinct. But they knew not the tongue 
it spake, or the words it uttered." 

The Island of the Pedestal 

The next island stood on a foot, or pedestal, which rose from 
the sea, and they could find no way of access to it. In the base of 

278 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the pedestal was a door, closed and locked, which they could not 
open, so they sailed away, having seen and spoken with no one. 

The Island of the Women 

Here they found the rampart of a mighty dun, enclosing a 
mansion. They landed to look on it, and sat on a hillock near by. 
Within the dun they saw seventeen maidens busy at preparing a 
great bath. In a little while a rider, richly clad, came up swiftly 
on a racehorse, and lighted down and went inside, one of the girls 
taking the horse. The rider then went into the bath, when they 
saw that it was a woman. Shortly after that one of the maidens 
came out and invited them to enter, saying: "The Queen invites 
you." They went into the fort and bathed, and then sat down to 
[324] meat, each man with a maiden over against him, and Maeldun 

opposite to the queen. And Maeldun was wedded to the queen, 
and each of the maidens to one of his men, and at nightfall 
canopied chambers were allotted to each of them. On the morrow 
morn they made ready to depart, but the queen would not have 
them go, and said: "Stay here, and old age will never fall on 
you, but ye shall remain as ye are now for ever and ever, and 
what ye had last night ye shall have always. And be no longer 
a-wandering from island to island on the ocean." 

She then told Maeldun that she was the mother of the seventeen 
girls they had seen, and her husband had been king of the island. 
He was now dead, and she reigned in his place. Each day she 
went into the great plain in the interior of the island to judge the 
folk, and returned to the dun at night. 

So they remained there for three months of winter; but at the 
end of that time it seemed they had been there three years, and the 
men wearied of it, and longed to set forth for their own country. 

"What shall we find there," said Maeldun, "that is better than 

But still the people murmured and complained, and at last 
they said: "Great is the love which Maeldun has for his woman. 
Let him stay with her alone if he will, but we will go to our own 


country." But Maeldun would not be left after them, and at last 
one day, when the queen was away judging the folk, they went 
on board their bark and put out to sea. Before they had gone far, 
however, the queen came riding up with a clew of twine in her 
hand, and she flung it after them. Maeldun caught it in his hand, 
and it clung to his hand so that he could not free himself, and the 
queen, holding the other end, drew them back to land. And they 
stayed on the island another three months. [325] 

Twice again the same thing happened, and at last the people 
averred that Maeldun held the clew on purpose, so great was his 
love for the woman. So the next time another man caught the 
clew, but it clung to his hand as before; so Diuran smote off his 
hand, and it fell with the clew into the sea. "When she saw that 
she at once began to wail and shriek, so that all the land was 
one cry, wailing and shrieking." And thus they escaped from the 
Island of the Women. 

The Island of the Red Berries 

On this island were trees with great red berries which yielded 
an intoxicating and slumbrous juice. They mingled it with water 
to moderate its power, and filled their casks with it, and sailed 

The Island of the Eagle 

A large island, with woods of oak and yew on one side of it, 
and on the other a plain, whereon were herds of sheep, and a 
little lake in it; and there also they found a small church and a 
fort, and an ancient grey cleric, clad only in his hair. Maeldun 
asked him who he was. 

"I am the fifteenth man of the monks of St. Brennan of Birr," 
he said. "We went on our pilgrimage into the ocean, and they 
have all died save me alone." He showed them the tablet (? 
calendar) of the Holy Brennan, and they prostrated themselves 
before it, and Maeldun kissed it. They stayed there for a season, 
feeding on the sheep of the island. 

280 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

One day they saw what seemed to be a cloud coming up from 
the south-west. As it drew near, however, they saw the waving 
of pinions, and perceived that it was an enormous bird. It came 
into the island, and, alighting very wearily on a hill near the 
[326] lake, it began eating the red berries, like grapes, which grew on 

a huge tree-branch as big as a full-grown oak, that it had brought 
with it, and the juice and fragments of the berries fell into the 
lake, reddening all the water. Fearful that it would seize them 
in its talons and bear them out to sea, they lay hid in the woods 
and watched it. After a while, however, Maeldun went out to 
the foot of the hill, but the bird did him no harm, and then the 
rest followed cautiously behind their shields, and one of them 
gathered the berries off the branch which the bird held in its 
talons, but it did them no evil, and regarded them not at all. And 
they saw that it was very old, and its plumage dull and decayed. 

At the hour of noon two eagles came up from the south-west 
and alit in front of the great bird, and after resting awhile they set 
to work picking off the insects that infested its jaws and eyes and 
ears. This they continued till vespers, when all three ate of the 
berries again. At last, on the following day, when the great bird 
had been completely cleansed, it plunged into the lake, and again 
the two eagles picked and cleansed it. Till the third day the great 
bird remained preening and shaking its pinions, and its feathers 
became glossy and abundant, and then, soaring upwards, it flew 
thrice round the island, and away to the quarter whence it had 
come, and its flight was now swift and strong; whence it was 
manifest to them that this had been its renewal from old age to 
youth, according as the prophet said, Thy youth is renewed like 
the eagle's } m 

Then Diuran said: "Let us bathe in that lake and renew 
ourselves where the bird hath been renewed." "Nay," said 
another, "for the bird hath left his venom in it." But Diuran 


plunged in and drank of the water. From that time so long as he 
lived his eyes were strong and keen, and not a tooth fell from [327] 
his jaw nor a hair from his head, and he never knew illness or 

Thereafter they bade farewell to the anchorite, and fared forth 
on the ocean once more. 

The Island of the Laughing Folk 

Here they found a great company of men laughing and playing 
incessantly. They drew lots as to who should enter and explore 
it, and it fell to Maeldun's foster-brother. But when he set foot on 
it he at once began to laugh and play with the others, and could 
not leave off, nor would he come back to his comrades. So they 
left him and sailed away. 201 

The Island of the Flaming Rampart 

They now came in sight of an island which was not large, and 
it had about it a rampart of flame that circled round and round 
it continually. In one part of the rampart there was an opening, 
and when this opening came opposite to them they saw through 
it the whole island, and saw those who dwelt therein, even men 
and women, beautiful, many, and wearing adorned garments, 
with vessels of gold in their hands. And the festal music which 
they made came to the ears of the wanderers. For a long time 
they lingered there, watching this marvel, "and they deemed it 
delightful to behold." 

The Island of the Monk of Tory 

Far off among the waves they saw what they took to be a 
white bird on the water. Drawing near to it they found it to be 
an aged man clad only in the white hair of his body, and he was [328] 
throwing himself in prostrations on a broad rock. 

"From Torach 202 I have come hither," he said, "and there I 

201 This disposes of the last of the foster-brothers, who should not have joined 
the party. 

202 Tory Island, off the Donegal coast. There was there a monastery and a 
church dedicated to St. Columba. 

282 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

was reared. I was cook in the monastery there, and the food of 
the Church I used to sell for myself, so that I had at last much 
treasure of raiment and brazen vessels and gold-bound books and 
all that man desires. Great was my pride and arrogance. 

"One day as I dug a grave in which to bury a churl who had 
been brought on to the island, a voice came from below where a 
holy man lay buried, and he said: 'Put not the corpse of a sinner 
on me, a holy, pious person!' " 

After a dispute the monk buried the corpse elsewhere, and was 
promised an eternal reward for doing so. Not long thereafter he 
put to sea in a boat with all his accumulated treasures, meaning 
apparently to escape from the island with his plunder. A great 
wind blew him far out to sea, and when he was out of sight of 
land the boat stood still in one place. He saw near him a man 
(angel) sitting on the wave. "Whither goest thou?" said the man. 
"On a pleasant way, whither I am now looking," said the monk. 
"It would not be pleasant to thee if thou knewest what is around 
thee," said the man. "So far as eye can see there is one crowd 
of demons all gathered around thee, because of thy covetousness 
and pride, and theft, and other evil deeds. Thy boat hath stopped, 
nor will it move until thou do my will, and the fires of hell shall 
get hold of thee." 

He came near to the boat, and laid his hand on the arm of the 
fugitive, who promised to do his will. 
[329] "Fling into the sea," he said, "all the wealth that is in thy boat." 

"It is a pity," said the monk, "that it should go to loss." 

"It shall in nowise go to loss. There will be one man whom 
thou wilt profit." 

The monk thereupon flung everything into the sea save one 
little wooden cup, and he cast away oars and rudder. The man 
gave him a provision of whey and seven cakes, and bade him 
abide wherever his boat should stop. The wind and waves carried 
him hither and thither till at last the boat came to rest upon 
the rock where the wanderers found him. There was nothing 


there but the bare rock, but remembering what he was bidden 
he stepped out upon a little ledge over which the waves washed, 
and the boat immediately left him, and the rock was enlarged for 
him. There he remained seven years, nourished by otters which 
brought him salmon out of the sea, and even flaming firewood 
on which to cook them, and his cup was filled with good liquor 
every day. "And neither wet nor heat nor cold affects me in this 

At the noon hour miraculous nourishment was brought for the 
whole crew, and thereafter the ancient man said to them: 

"Ye will all reach your country, and the man that slew thy 
father, O Maeldun, ye will find him in a fortress before you. And 
slay him not, but forgive him; because God hath saved you from 
manifold great perils, and ye too are men deserving of death." 

Then they bade him farewell and went on their accustomed 

The Island of the Falcon 

This is uninhabited save for herds of sheep and oxen. They 
land on it and eat their fill, and one of them sees there a large 
falcon. "This falcon," he says, "is like the falcons of Ireland." [330] 
"Watch it," says Maeldun, "and see how it will go from us." 
It flew off to the south-east, and they rowed after it all day till 

The Home-coming 

At nightfall they sighted a land like Ireland; and soon came 
to a small island, where they ran their prow ashore. It was the 
island where dwelt the man who had slain Ailill. 

They went up to the dun that was on the island, and heard men 
talking within it as they sat at meat. One man said: 

"It would be ill for us if we saw Maeldun now." 

"That Maeldun has been drowned," said another. 

"Maybe it is he who shall waken you from sleep to-night," 
said a third. 

"If he should come now," said a fourth, "what should we do?" 

284 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"Not hard to answer that," said the chief of them. "Great 
welcome should he have if he were to come, for he hath been a 
long space in great tribulation." 

Then Maeldun smote with the wooden clapper against the 
door. "Who is there?" asked the doorkeeper. 

"Maeldun is here," said he. 

They entered the house in peace, and great welcome was 

made for them, and they were arrayed in new garments. And 

then they told the story of all the marvels that God had shown 

them, according to the words of the "sacred poet," who said, 

[331] Haec olim meminisse juvabit. 203 

Then Maeldun went to his own home and kindred, and Diuran 
the Rhymer took with him the piece of silver that he had hewn 
from the net of the pillar, and laid it on the high altar of Armagh 
in triumph and exultation at the miracles that God had wrought 
for them. And they told again the story of all that had befallen 
them, and all the marvels they had seen by sea and land, and the 
perils they had endured. 

The story ends with the following words: 

"Now Aed the Fair [Aed Finn 204 ], chief sage of Ireland, 
arranged this story as it standeth here; and he did so for a delight 
to the mind, and for the folks of Ireland after him." 


203 "One day we shall delight in the remembrance of these things." The 
quotation is from Vergil, "£sn." i. 203 "Sacred poet" is a translation of the 
vates sacer of Horace. 

204 This sage and poet has not been identified from any other record. Praise 
and thanks to him, whoever he may have been. 



Bardic Philosophy 

The absence in early Celtic literature of any world-myth, or any 
philosophic account of the origin and constitution of things, was 
noticed at the opening of our third chapter. In Gaelic literature 
there is, as far as I know, nothing which even pretends to represent 
early Celtic thought on this subject. It is otherwise in Wales. 
Here there has existed for a considerable time a body of teaching 
purporting to contain a portion, at any rate, of that ancient Druidic 
thought which, as Caesar tells us, was communicated only to the 
initiated, and never written down. This teaching is principally 
to be found in two volumes entitled "Barddas," a compilation 
made from materials in his possession by a Welsh bard and 
scholar named Llewellyn Sion, of Glamorgan, towards the end 
of the sixteenth century, and edited, with a translation, by J.A. 
Williams ap Ithel for the Welsh MS. Society. Modern Celtic 
scholars pour contempt on the pretensions of works like this to 
enshrine any really antique thought. Thus Mr. Ivor B. John: 
"All idea of a bardic esoteric doctrine involving pre-Christian 
mythic philosophy must be utterly discarded." And again: "The 
nonsense talked upon the subject is largely due to the uncritical 
invention of pseudo-antiquaries of the sixteenth to seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries." 205 Still the bardic Order was certainly 
at one time in possession of such a doctrine. That Order had 
a fairly continuous existence in Wales. And though no critical 
thinker would build with any confidence a theory of pre-Christian [333] 

205 "The Mabinogion," pp. 45 and 54. 

286 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

doctrine on a document of the sixteenth century, it does not seem 
wise to scout altogether the possibility that some fragments of 
antique lore may have lingered even so late as that in bardic 

At any rate, "Barddas" is a work of considerable philosophic 
interest, and even if it represents nothing but a certain current 
of Cymric thought in the sixteenth century it is not unworthy 
of attention by the student of things Celtic. Purely Druidic 
it does not even profess to be, for Christian personages and 
episodes from Christian history figure largely in it. But we come 
occasionally upon a strain of thought which, whatever else it 
may be, is certainly not Christian, and speaks of an independent 
philosophic system. 

In this system two primary existences are contemplated, God 
and Cythrawl, who stand respectively for the principle of energy 
tending towards life, and the principle of destruction tending 
towards nothingness. Cythrawl is realised in Annwn, 206 which 
may be rendered, the Abyss, or Chaos. In the beginning there 
was nothing but God and Annwn. Organised life began by the 
Word — God pronounced His ineffable Name and the "Manred" 
was formed. The Manred was the primal substance of the 
universe. It was conceived as a multitude of minute indivisible 
particles — atoms, in fact — each being a microcosm, for God is 
complete in each of them, while at the same time each is a part 
of God, the Whole. The totality of being as it now exists is 
represented by three concentric circles. The innermost of them, 
where life sprang from Annwn, is called "Abred," and is the stage 
of struggle and evolution — the contest of life with Cythrawl. The 
[334] next is the circle of "Gwynfyd," or Purity, in which life is 

manifested as a pure, rejoicing force, having attained its triumph 
over evil. The last and outermost circle is called "Ceugant," or 
Infinity. Here all predicates fail us, and this circle, represented 

206 Pronounced "Annoon." It was the word used in the early literature for 
Hades or Fairyland. 


graphically not by a bounding line, but by divergent rays, is 
inhabited by God alone. The following extract from "Barddas," 
in which the alleged bardic teaching is conveyed in catechism 
form, will serve to show the order of ideas in which the writer's 
mind moved: 

The Circles of Being 

"Q. Whence didst thou proceed? 

"A. I came from the Great World, having my beginning in 

"Q. Where art thou now? and how earnest thou to what thou 

"A. I am in the Little World, whither I came having traversed 
the circle of Abred, and now I am a Man, at its termination and 
extreme limits. 

"Q. What wert thou before thou didst become a man, in the 
circle of Abred? 

"A. I was in Annwn the least possible that was capable of life 
and the nearest possible to absolute death; and I came in every 
form and through every form capable of a body and life to the [335] 
state of man along the circle of Abred, where my condition was 
severe and grievous during the age of ages, ever since I was 
parted in Annwn from the dead, by the gift of God, and His great 
generosity, and His unlimited and endless love. 

"Q. Through how many different forms didst thou come, and 
what happened unto thee?" 

"A. Through every form capable of life, in water, in earth, in 
air. And there happened unto me every severity, every hardship, 
every evil, and every suffering, and but little was the goodness or 
Gwynfyd before I became a man.... Gwynfyd cannot be obtained 
without seeing and knowing everything, but it is not possible to 

288 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

see or to know everything without suffering everything.... And 
there can be no full and perfect love that does not produce those 
things which are necessary to lead to the knowledge that causes 

Every being, we are told, shall attain to the circle of Gwynfyd 
at last. 207 

There is much here that reminds us of Gnostic or Oriental 
thought. It is certainly very unlike Christian orthodoxy of the 
sixteenth century. As a product of the Cymric mind of that period 
the reader may take it for what it is worth, without troubling 
himself either with antiquarian theories or with their refutations. 

Let us now turn to the really ancient work, which is not 

philosophic, but creative and imaginative, produced by British 

bards and fabulists of the Middle Ages. But before we go on 

to set forth what we shall find in this literature we must delay a 

[336] moment to discuss one thing which we shall not. 

The Arthurian Saga 

For the majority of modern readers who have not made any 
special study of the subject, the mention of early British legend 
will inevitably call up the glories of the Arthurian Saga — they 
will think of the fabled palace at Caerleon-on-Usk, the Knights of 
the Round Table riding forth on chivalrous adventure, the Quest 
of the Grail, the guilty love of Lancelot, flower of knighthood, 
for the queen, the last great battle by the northern sea, the voyage 
of Arthur, sorely wounded, but immortal, to the mystic valley 
of Avalon. But as a matter of fact they will find in the native 
literature of mediaeval Wales little or nothing of all this — no 
Round Table, no Lancelot, no Grail-Quest, no Isle of Avalon, 
until the Welsh learned about them from abroad; and though there 
was indeed an Arthur in this literature, he is a wholly different 
being from the Arthur of what we now call the Arthurian Saga. 

207 "Barddas," vol. i. pp. 224 sqq. 



The earliest extant mention of Arthur is to be found in the 
work of the British historian Nennius, who wrote his "Historia 
Britonum" about the year 800. He derives his authority from 
various sources — ancient monuments and writings of Britain and 
of Ireland (in connexion with the latter country he records the 
legend of Partholan), Roman annals, and chronicles of saints, 
especially St. Germanus. He presents a fantastically Romanised 
and Christianised view of British history, deriving the Britons 
from a Trojan and Roman ancestry. His account of Arthur, 
however, is both sober and brief. Arthur, who, according to 
Nennius, lived in the sixth century, was not a king; his ancestry 
was less noble than that of many other British chiefs, who, 
nevertheless, for his great talents as a military Imperator, or dux [337] 
bellorum, chose him for their leader against the Saxons, whom he 
defeated in twelve battles, the last being at Mount Badon. Arthur's 
office was doubtless a relic of Roman military organisation, and 
there is no reason to doubt his historical existence, however 
impenetrable may be the veil which now obscures his valiant 
and often triumphant battlings for order and civilisation in that 
disastrous age. 

Geoffrey of Monmouth 

Next we have Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph, 
who wrote his "Historia Regum Britanise" in South Wales in 
the early part of the twelfth century. This work is an audacious 
attempt to make sober history out of a mass of mythical or 
legendary matter mainly derived, if we are to believe the author, 
from an ancient book brought by his uncle Walter, Archdeacon of 
Oxford, from Brittany. The mention of Brittany in this connexion 
is, as we shall see, very significant. Geoffrey wrote expressly 
to commemorate the exploits of Arthur, who now appears as a 
king, son of Uther Pendragon and of Igerna, wife of Gorlois, 
Duke of Cornwall, to whom Uther gained access in the shape 
of her husband through the magic arts of Merlin. He places the 

290 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

beginning of Arthur's reign in the year 505, recounts his wars 
against the Saxons, and says he ultimately conquered not only all 
Britain, but Ireland, Norway, Gaul, and Dacia, and successfully 
resisted a demand for tribute and homage from the Romans. He 
held his court at Caerleon-on-Usk. While he was away on the 
Continent carrying on his struggle with Rome his nephew Modred 
usurped his crown and wedded his wife Guanhumara. Arthur, 
on this, returned, and after defeating the traitor at Winchester 
[338] slew him in a last battle in Cornwall, where Arthur himself was 

sorely wounded (A.D. 542). The queen retired to a convent at 
Caerleon. Before his death Arthur conferred his kingdom on his 
kinsman Constantine, and was then carried off mysteriously to 
"the isle of Avalon" to be cured, and "the rest is silence." Arthur's 
magic sword "Caliburn" (Welsh Caladvwlch; see p. 224, note) 
is mentioned by Geoffrey and described as having been made in 
Avalon, a word which seems to imply some kind of fairyland, a 
Land of the Dead, and may be related to the Norse Valhall. It 
was not until later times that Avalon came to be identified with 
an actual site in Britain (Glastonbury). In Geoffrey's narrative 
there is nothing about the Holy Grail, or Lancelot, or the Round 
Table, and except for the allusion to Avalon the mystical element 
of the Arthurian saga is absent. Like Nennius, Geoffrey finds 
a fantastic classical origin for the Britons. His so-called history 
is perfectly worthless as a record of fact, but it has proved a 
veritable mine for poets and chroniclers, and has the distinction 
of having furnished the subject for the earliest English tragic 
drama, "Gorboduc," as well as for Shakespeare's "King Lear"; 
and its author may be described as the father — at least on its 
quasi-historical side — of the Arthurian saga, which he made up 
partly out of records of the historical dux bellorum of Nennius 
and partly out of poetical amplifications of these records made 
in Brittany by the descendants of exiles from Wales, many of 
whom fled there at the very time when Arthur was waging 
his wars against the heathen Saxons. Geoffrey's book had a 


wonderful success. It was speedily translated into French by 
Wace, who wrote "Li Romans de Brut" about 1155, with added 
details from Breton sources, and translated from Wace's French 
into Anglo-Saxon by Layamon, who thus anticipated Malory's 
adaptations of late French prose romances. Except a few scholars [339] 
who protested unavailingly, no one doubted its strict historical 
truth, and it had the important effect of giving to early British 
history a new dignity in the estimation of Continental and of 
English princes. To sit upon the throne of Arthur was regarded 
as in itself a glory by Plantagenet monarchs who had not a trace 
of Arthur's or of any British blood. 

The Saga in Brittany: Marie de France 

The Breton sources must next be considered. Unfortunately, 
not a line of ancient Breton literature has come down to us, 
and for our knowledge of it we must rely on the appearances 
it makes in the work of French writers. One of the earliest of 
these is the Anglo-Norman poetess who called herself Marie de 
France, and who wrote about 1150 and afterwards. She wrote, 
among other things, a number of "Lais," or tales, which she 
explicitly and repeatedly tells us were translated or adapted from 
Breton sources. Sometimes she claims to have rendered a writer's 
original exactly: 

"Les contes que jo sai verais 
Dunt li Bretun unt fait les lais 
Vos conterai assez briefment; 
Et cief [sauf] di cest coumencement 
Selunc la lettre e l'escriture." 

Little is actually said about Arthur in these tales, but the 
events of them are placed in his time — en eel terns tint Artus la 
terre — and the allusions, which include a mention of the Round 
Table, evidently imply a general knowledge of the subject among 
those to whom these Breton "Lais" were addressed. Lancelot 
is not mentioned, but there is a "Lai" about one Lanval, who 

292 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

is beloved by Arthur's queen, but rejects her because he has a 
[340] fairy mistress in the "isle d'Avalon." Gawain is mentioned, and an 

episode is told in the "Lai de Chevrefoil" about Tristan and Iseult, 
whose maid, "Brangien," is referred to in a way which assumes 
that the audience knew the part she had played on Iseult's bridal 
night. In short, we have evidence here of the existence in Brittany 
of a well-diffused and well-developed body of chivalric legend 
gathered about the personality of Arthur. The legends are so well 
known that mere allusions to characters and episodes in them are 
as well understood as references to Tennyson's "Idylls" would be 
among us to-day. The "Lais" of Marie de France therefore point 
strongly to Brittany as the true cradle of the Arthurian saga, on 
its chivalrous and romantic side. They do not, however, mention 
the Grail. 

Chrestien de Troyes 

Lastly, and chiefly, we have the work of the French poet 
Chrestien de Troyes, who began in 1165 to translate Breton 
"Lais," like Marie de France, and who practically brought the 
Arthurian saga into the poetic literature of Europe, and gave 
it its main outline and character. He wrote a "Tristan" (now 
lost). He (if not Walter Map) introduced Lancelot of the Lake 
into the story; he wrote a Conte del Graal, in which the Grail 
legend and Perceval make their first appearance, though he left 
the story unfinished, and does not tell us what the "Grail" really 
was. 208 He also wrote a long conte d'aventure entitled "Erec," 
containing the story of Geraint and Enid. These are the earliest 
[341] poems we possess in which the Arthur of chivalric legend comes 

prominently forward. What were the sources of Chrestien? No 

208 Strange as it may seem to us, the character of this object was by no means 
fixed from the beginning. In the poem of Wolfram von Eschenbach it is a stone 
endowed with magical properties. The word is derived by the early fabulists 
from greable, something pleasant to possess and enjoy, and out of which one 
could have a son gre, whatever he chose of good things. The Grail legend will 
be dealt with later in connexion with the Welsh tale "Peredur." 


doubt they were largely Breton. Troyes is in Champagne, which 
had been united to Blois in 1019 by Eudes, Count of Blois, 
and reunited again after a period of dispossession by Count 
Theobald de Blois in 1128. Marie, Countess of Champagne, 
was Chrestien's patroness. And there were close connexions 
between the ruling princes of Blois and of Brittany. Alain II., a 
Duke of Brittany, had in the tenth century married a sister of the 
Count de Blois, and in the first quarter of the thirteenth century 
Jean I. of Brittany married Blanche de Champagne, while their 
daughter Alix married Jean de Chastillon, Count of Blois, in 
1254. It is highly probable, therefore, that through minstrels 
who attended their Breton lords at the court of Blois, from the 
middle of the tenth century onward, a great many Breton "Lais" 
and legends found their way into French literature during the 
eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. But it is also certain 
that the Breton legends themselves had been strongly affected by 
French influences, and that to the Matiere de France, as it was 
called by mediaeval writers 209 — i.e., the legends of Charlemagne 
and his Paladins — we owe the Table Round and the chivalric 
institutions ascribed to Arthur's court at Caerleon-on-Usk. 


It must not be forgotten that (as Miss Jessie L. Weston has 
emphasised in her invaluable studies on the Arthurian saga) 
Gautier de Denain, the earliest of the continuators or re-workers 
of Chrestien de Troyes, mentions as his authority for stories [342] 
of Gawain one Bleheris, a poet "born and bred in Wales." 
This forgotten bard is believed to be identical with famosus Me 
fabulator, Bledhericus, mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis, and 
with the Breris quoted by Thomas of Brittany as an authority for 
the Tristan story. 

Conclusion as to the Origin of the Arthurian Saga 

209 Distinguished by these from the other great storehouse of poetic legend, 
the Matiere de Bretagne — i.e., the Arthurian saga. 

294 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

In the absence, however, of any information as to when, or 
exactly what, Bleheris wrote, the opinion must, I think, hold the 
field that the Arthurian saga, as we have it now, is not of Welsh, 
nor even of pure Breton origin. The Welsh exiles who colonised 
part of Brittany about the sixth century must have brought with 
them many stories of the historical Arthur. They must also have 
brought legends of the Celtic deity Artaius, a god to whom altars 
have been found in France. These personages ultimately blended 
into one, even as in Ireland the Christian St. Brigit blended 
with the pagan goddess Brigindo. 210 We thus get a mythical 
figure combining something of the exaltation of a god with a 
definite habitation on earth and a place in history. An Arthur 
saga thus arose, which in its Breton (though not its Welsh) form 
was greatly enriched by material drawn in from the legends of 
Charlemagne and his peers, while both in Brittany and in Wales 
it became a centre round which clustered a mass of floating 
legendary matter relating to various Celtic personages, human 
and divine. Chrestien de Troyes, working on Breton material, 
ultimately gave it the form in which it conquered the world, and 
in which it became in the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries 
what the Faust legend was in later times, the accepted vehicle for 
[343] the ideals and aspirations of an epoch. 

The Saga in Wales 

From the Continent, and especially from Brittany, the story 
of Arthur came back into Wales transformed and glorified. The 
late Dr. Heinrich Zimmer, in one of his luminous studies of 
the subject, remarks that "In Welsh literature we have definite 
evidence that the South-Welsh prince, Rhys ap Tewdwr, who 
had been in Brittany, brought from thence in the year 1070 
the knowledge of Arthur's Round Table to Wales, where of 
course it had been hitherto unknown." 211 And many Breton 
lords are known to have followed the banner of William the 

210 Seep. 103. 

211 "Cultur der Gegenwart," i. ix. 


Conqueror into England. 212 The introducers of the saga into 
Wales found, however, a considerable body of Arthurian matter 
of a very different character already in existence there. Besides 
the traditions of the historical Arthur, the dux bellorum of 
Nennius, there was the Celtic deity, Artaius. It is probably a 
reminiscence of this deity whom we meet with under the name 
of Arthur in the only genuine Welsh Arthurian story we possess, 
the story of Kilhwch and Olwen in the "Mabinogion." Much of 
the Arthurian saga derived from Chrestien and other Continental 
writers was translated and adapted in Wales as in other European 
countries, but as a matter of fact it made a later and a lesser 
impression in Wales than almost anywhere else. It conflicted 
with existing Welsh traditions, both historical and mythological; 
it was full of matter entirely foreign to the Welsh spirit, and it 
remained always in Wales something alien and unassimilated. 
Into Ireland it never entered at all. 

These few introductory remarks do not, of course, profess 
to contain a discussion of the Arthurian saga — a vast subject 
with myriad ramifications, historical, mythological, mystical, [344] 
and what not — but are merely intended to indicate the relation of 
that saga to genuine Celtic literature and to explain why we shall 
hear so little of it in the following accounts of Cymric myths 
and legends. It was a great spiritual myth which, arising from 
the composite source above described, overran all the Continent, 
as its hero was supposed to have done in armed conquest, but 
it cannot be regarded as a special possession of the Celtic race, 
nor is it at present extant, except in the form of translation or 
adaptation, in any Celtic tongue. 

Gaelic and Cymric Legend Compared 

The myths and legends of the Celtic race which have come 
down to us in the Welsh language are in some respects of a 
different character from those which we possess in Gaelic. The 

212 A list of them is given in Lobineau's "Histoire de Bretagne." 

296 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Welsh material is nothing like as full as the Gaelic, nor so 
early. The tales of the "Mabinogion" are mainly drawn from 
the fourteenth-century manuscript entitled "The Red Book of 
Hergest." One of them, the romance of Taliesin, came from 
another source, a manuscript of the seventeenth century. The 
four oldest tales in the "Mabinogion" are supposed by scholars 
to have taken their present shape in the tenth or eleventh century, 
while several Irish tales, like the story of Etain and Midir or 
the Death of Conary, go back to the seventh or eighth. It will 
be remembered that the story of the invasion of Partholan was 
known to Nennius, who wrote about the year 800. As one 
might therefore expect, the mythological elements in the Welsh 
romances are usually much more confused and harder to decipher 
than in the earlier of the Irish tales. The mythic interest has grown 
less, the story interest greater; the object of the bard is less to hand 
[345] down a sacred text than to entertain a prince's court. We must 

remember also that the influence of the Continental romances of 
chivalry is clearly perceptible in the Welsh tales; and, in fact, 
comes eventually to govern them completely. 

Gaelic and Continental Romance 

In many respects the Irish Celt anticipated the ideas of these 
romances. The lofty courtesy shown to each other by enemies, 213 
the fantastic pride which forbade a warrior to take advantage of 
a wounded adversary, 214 the extreme punctilio with which the 
duties or observances proper to each man's caste or station were 
observed 215 — all this tone of thought and feeling which would 
seem so strange to us if we met an instance of it in classical 
literature would seem quite familiar and natural in Continental 
romances of the twelfth and later centuries. Centuries earlier 
than that it was a marked feature in Gaelic literature. Yet in 
the Irish romances, whether Ultonian or Ossianic, the element 

213 See, e.g., pp. 243 and 218, note. 

214 See p. 233, and a similar case in the author's "High Deeds of Finn," p. 82. 

215 See p. 232, and the tale of the recovery of the "Tain," p. 234. 


which has since been considered the most essential motive in a 
romantic tale is almost entirely lacking. This is the element of 
love, or rather of woman- worship. The Continental fabulist felt 
that he could do nothing without this motive of action. But the 
"lady-love" of the English, French, or German knight, whose 
favour he wore, for whose grace he endured infinite hardship 
and peril, does not meet us in Gaelic literature. It would have 
seemed absurd to the Irish Celt to make the plot of a serious 
story hinge on the kind of passion with which the mediaeval 
Dulcinea inspired her faithful knight. In the two most famous 
and popular of Gaelic love-tales, the tale of Deirdre and "The [346] 
Pursuit of Dermot and Grania," the women are the wooers, and 
the men are most reluctant to commit what they know to be 
the folly of yielding to them. Now this romantic, chivalric kind 
of love, which idealised woman into a goddess, and made the 
service of his lady a sacred duty to the knight, though it never 
reached in Wales the height which it did in Continental and 
English romances, is yet clearly discernible there. We can trace 
it in "Kilhwch and Olwen," which is comparatively an ancient 
tale. It is well developed in later stories like "Peredur" and "The 
Lady of the Fountain." It is a symptom of the extent to which, 
in comparison with the Irish, Welsh literature had lost its pure 
Celtic strain and become affected — I do not, of course, say to its 
loss — by foreign influences. 

Gaelic and Cymric Mythology: Nudd 

The oldest of the Welsh tales, those called "The Four Branches 
of the Mabinogi," are the richest in mythological elements, but 
these occur in more or less recognisable form throughout nearly 
all the mediaeval tales, and even, after many transmutations, 
in Malory. We can clearly discern certain mythological figures 
common to all Celtica. We meet, for instance, a personage called 
Nudd or Lludd, evidently a solar deity. A temple dating from 

216 "Pwyll King of Dyfed," "Bran and Branwen," "Math Sor of Mathonwy,' 
and "Manawyddan Son of Llyr." 

298 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Roman times, and dedicated to him under the name of Nodens, 
has been discovered at Lydney, by the Severn. On a bronze 
plaque found near the spot is a representation of the god. He 
is encircled by a halo and accompanied by flying spirits and by 
Tritons. We are reminded of the Danaan deities and their close 

[347] connexion with the sea; and when we find that in Welsh legend 

an epithet is attached to Nudd, meaning "of the Silver Hand" 
(though no extant Welsh legend tells the meaning of the epithet), 
we have no difficulty in identifying this Nudd with Nuada of the 
Silver Hand, who led the Danaans in the battle of Moytura. 217 
Under his name Lludd he is said to have had a temple on the 
site of St. Paul's in London, the entrance to which, according to 
Geoffrey of Monmouth, was called in the British tongue Parth 
Lludd, which the Saxons translated Ludes Geat, our present 

[350] Ludgate. 

Gods of the House of Don 

Manogan Mathonwy 

+ + + 

Beli + Don 


(Death, (Mother-goddess, 


Irish Bile) Irish Dana) 


217 See p. 107. 


.+ +-+ + + + +- 

Gwydion 1 Arianrod 

Nudd Nynniaw 

(Science and ("Silver- 

Ludd and Peibaw 

light; slayer circle," Dawn- 


of Pryderi) 




craft, (_m_. Llyr) 


+ +— + 







Nwyvre Llew Dylan 

(Warder of 

(atmosphere, Llaw (Sea-god) 
Hades, called 

space) Gyffes 

"Avalon" in 






Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Gods of the House Of Llyr 

Iweriad — I — Llyr — \— Penardun — +- 

(=Ireland— _i.e.,_ (Irish (dau. of 

western land Lir) D5n) 

of Hades) 

+ + + 

+ + + 

Branwen — i— Matholwch 
Nissyen Evnissyen 

(Love- (King of 

goddess) Ireland) 

(giant god 
of Hades 
Pwyll— h — Rhiannon 
a minstrel; 
(Head of 


Manawyddan— Rhiannon 
(Irish Mana- 
nan, god of 

the Sea, 



Pryderi— Kicva 



Arthur and his Kin 





-+ — +- 

Yspaddaden Custennin 

Kilwydd -+- Goleuddydd 

Olwen h 

Kilhwch — Olwen 

— + + 

Goreu Erbin Igerna -+- Uther 


(= Bran) 



+ — Gwyar 

(=Llud) (Gore, a 



+ +- 






(Falcon of May, 
(Falcon of Summer, 


302 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

= LLew Llaw later Sir 

later Sir Galahad; 

Gyffes, later Mordred) 

orig. identical 

Sir Gawain) 
with Gwalchmai) 

Llyr and Manawyddan 

Again, when we find a mythological personage named Llyr, 
with a son named Manawyddan, playing a prominent part in 
Welsh legend, we may safely connect them with the Irish Lir and 
his son Mananan, gods of the sea. Llyr-cester, now Leicester, 
was a centre of the worship of Llyr. 

Llew Llaw Gyffes 

Finally, we may point to a character in the "Mabinogi," or tale, 
entitled "Math Son of Mathonwy." The name of this character is 
given as Llew Llaw Gyffes, which the Welsh fabulist interprets 
as "The Lion of the Sure Hand," and a tale, which we shall 
recount later on, is told to account for the name. But when 
we find that this hero exhibits characteristics which point to his 
being a solar deity, such as an amazingly rapid growth from 
childhood into manhood, and when we are told, moreover, by 
Professor Rhys that Gyffes originally meant, not "steady" or 
"sure," but "long," 218 it becomes evident that we have here a 
dim and broken reminiscence of the deity whom the Gaels called 
[348] Lugh of the Long Arm, 219 Lugh Lamh Fada. The misunderstood 

name survived, and round the misunderstanding legendary matter 
floating in the popular mind crystallised itself in a new story. 

These correspondences might be pursued in much further 
detail. It is enough here to point to their existence as evidence of 

218 "Hibbert Lectures," pp. 237-240. 

See pp. 88, 109, &c. Lugh, of course, = Lux, Light. The Celtic words 
Lamh and Llaw were used indifferently for hand or arm. 


the original community of Gaelic and Cymric mythology. 220 We 
are, in each literature, in the same circle of mythological ideas. 
In Wales, however, these ideas are harder to discern; the figures 
and their relationships in the Welsh Olympus are less accurately 
defined and more fluctuating. It would seem as if a number 
of different tribes embodied what were fundamentally the same 
conceptions under different names and wove different legends 
about them. The bardic literature, as we have it now, bears 
evidence sometimes of the prominence of one of these tribal 
cults, sometimes of another. To reduce these varying accounts 
to unity is altogether impossible. Still, we can do something to 
afford the reader a clue to the maze. 

The Houses of Ddn and of Llyr 

Two great divine houses or families are discernible — that 
of Ddn, a mother-goddess (representing the Gaelic Dana), 
whose husband is Beli, the Irish Bile, god of Death, and 
whose descendants are the Children of Light; and the House 
of Llyr, the Gaelic Lir, who here represents, not a Danaan 
deity, but something more like the Irish Fomorians. As in 
the case of the Irish myth, the two families are allied by [349] 
intermarriage — Penardun, a daughter of Don, is wedded to Llyr. 
D5n herself has a brother, Math, whose name signifies wealth 
or treasure (cf. Greek Pluton, ploutos), and they descend from a 
figure indistinctly characterised, called Mathonwy. 

The House of Arthur 

Into the pantheon of deities represented in the four ancient 
Mabinogi there came, at a later time, from some other tribal 
source, another group headed by Arthur, the god Artaius. He 
takes the place of Gwydion son of D5n, and the other deities of 
his circle fall more or less accurately into the places of others 
of the earlier circle. The accompanying genealogical plans are 

220 Mr. Squire, in his "Mythology of the British Islands," 1905, has brought 
together in a clear and attractive form the most recent results of studies on this 

304 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

intended to help the reader to a general view of the relationships 
and attributes of these personages. It must be borne in mind, 
however, that these tabular arrangements necessarily involve an 
appearance of precision and consistency which is not reflected 
in the fluctuating character of the actual myths taken as a whole. 
Still, as a sketch-map of a very intricate and obscure region, they 
may help the reader who enters it for the first time to find his 
bearings in it, and that is the only purpose they propose to serve. 

Gwyn ap Nudd 

The deity named Gwyn ap Nudd is said, like Finn in Gaelic 
legend, 221 to have impressed himself more deeply and lastingly 
on the Welsh popular imagination than any of the other divinities. 
A mighty warrior and huntsman, he glories in the crash of 
breaking spears, and, like Odin, assembles the souls of dead 
[353] heroes in his shadowy kingdom, for although he belongs to the 

kindred of the Light-gods, Hades is his special domain. The 
combat between him and Gwythur ap Greidawl (Victor, son 
of Scorcher) for Creudylad, daughter of Lludd, which is to be 
renewed every May-day till time shall end, represents evidently 
the contest between winter and summer for the flowery and 
fertile earth. "Later," writes Mr. Charles Squire, "he came to be 
considered as King of the Tylwyth Teg, the Welsh fairies, and 
his name as such has hardly yet died out of his last haunt, the 
romantic vale of Neath.... He is the Wild Huntsman of Wales 
and the West of England, and it is his pack which is sometimes 
heard at chase in waste places by night." 222 He figures as a god 
of war and death in a wonderful poem from the "Black Book 
of Caermarthen," where he is represented as discoursing with 
a prince named Gwyddneu Garanhir, who had come to ask his 
protection. I quote a few stanzas: the poem will be found in full 
in Mr. Squire's excellent volume: 

221 Finn and Gwyn are respectively the Gaelic and Cymric forms of the same 
name, meaning fair or white. 

222 "Mythology of the British Islands," p. 225. 


"I come from battle and conflict 
With a shield in my hand; 
Broken is my helmet by the thrusting of spears. 

"Round-hoofed is my horse, the torment of battle, 
Fairy am I called, 223 Gwyn the son of Nudd, 
The lover of Crewrdilad, the daughter of Lludd 

"I have been in the place where Gwendolen was slain, 
The son of Ceidaw, the pillar of song, 
Where the ravens screamed over blood. 

"I have been in the place where Bran was killed, 
The son of Iweridd, of far-extending fame, 
Where the ravens of the battlefield screamed. 

"I have been where Llacheu was slain, 
The son of Arthur, extolled in songs, 
When the ravens screamed over blood. 

"I have been where Mewrig was killed, 
The son of Carreian, of honourable fame, 
When the ravens screamed over flesh. 

"I have been where Gwallawg was killed, 
The son of Goholeth, the accomplished, 
The resister of Lloegyr, 224 the son of Lleynawg. 

"I have been where the soldiers of Britain were slain, 
From the east to the north: 
I am the escort of the grave. 


223 The sense appears to be doubtful here, and is variously rendered. 

224 Lloegyr = Saxon Britain. 

306 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"I have been where the soldiers of Britain were slain, 
From the east to the south: 
I am alive, they in death." 

Myrddin, or Merlin 

A deity named Myrddin holds in Arthur's mythological cycle 
the place of the Sky- and Sun-god, Nudd. One of the Welsh 
Triads tells us that Britain, before it was inhabited, was called 
Clas Myrddin, Myrddin's Enclosure. One is reminded of the 
Irish fashion of calling any favoured spot a "cattle-fold of the 
sun" — the name is applied by Deirdre to her beloved Scottish 
home in Glen Etive. Professor Rhys suggests that Myrddin was 
the deity specially worshipped at Stonehenge, which, according 
to British tradition as reported by Geoffrey of Monmouth, was 
erected by "Merlin," the enchanter who represents the form into 
which Myrddin had dwindled under Christian influences. We 
are told that the abode of Merlin was a house of glass, or a bush 
of whitethorn laden with bloom, or a sort of smoke or mist in 
the air, or "a close neither of iron nor steel nor timber nor of 
[355] stone, but of the air without any other thing, by enchantment so 

strong that it may never be undone while the world endureth." 225 
Finally he descended upon Bardsey Island, "off the extreme 
westernmost point of Carnarvonshire ... into it he went with 
nine attendant bards, taking with him the 'Thirteen Treasures of 
Britain,' thenceforth lost to men." Professor Rhys points out that 
a Greek traveller named Demetrius, who is described as having 
visited Britain in the first century A.D., mentions an island in 
the west where "Kronos" was supposed to be imprisoned with 
his attendant deities, and Briareus keeping watch over him as 
he slept, "for sleep was the bond forged for him." Doubtless 
we have here a version, Hellenised as was the wont of classical 
writers on barbaric myths, of a British story of the descent of the 

225 Rhys, "Hibbert Lectures," quoting from the ancient saga of Merlin published 
by the English Text Society, p. 693. 


Sun-god into the western sea, and his imprisonment there by the 
powers of darkness, with the possessions and magical potencies 
belonging to Light and Life. 226 

Nynniaw and Peibaw 

The two personages called Nynniaw and Peibaw who figure 
in the genealogical table play a very slight part in Cymric 
mythology, but one story in which they appear is interesting in 
itself and has an excellent moral. They are represented 227 as 
two brothers, Kings of Britain, who were walking together one 
starlight night. "See what a fine far-spreading field I have," said 
Nynniaw. "Where is it?" asked Peibaw. "There aloft and as far 
as you can see," said Nynniaw, pointing to the sky. "But look 
at all my cattle grazing in your field," said Peibaw. "Where are [356] 
they?" said Nynniaw. "All the golden stars," said Peibaw, "with 
the moon for their shepherd." "They shall not graze on my field," 
cried Nynniaw. "I say they shall," returned Peibaw. "They shall 
not." "They shall." And so they went on: first they quarrelled 
with each other, and then went to war, and armies were destroyed 
and lands laid waste, till at last the two brothers were turned into 
oxen as a punishment for their stupidity and quarrelsomeness. 

The "Mabinogion" 

We now come to the work in which the chief treasures of 
Cymric myth and legend were collected by Lady Charlotte Guest 
sixty years ago, and given to the world in a translation which is 
one of the masterpieces of English literature. The title of this 
work, the "Mabinogion," is the plural form of the word Mabinogi, 
which means a story belonging to the equipment of an apprentice- 
bard, such a story as every bard had necessarily to learn as part 
of his training, whatever more he might afterwards add to his 
repertoire. Strictly speaking, the Mabinogi in the volume are 
only the four tales given first in Mr. Alfred Nutt's edition, which 

226 "Mythology of the British Islands," pp. 325, 326; and Rhys, "Hibbert 
Lectures," p. 155 sqq. 

227 In the "Iolo MSS.," collected by Edward Williams. 

308 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

were entitled the "Four Branches of the Mabinogi," and which 
form a connected whole. They are among the oldest relics of 
Welsh mythological saga. 

Pwyll, Head of Hades 

The first of them is the story of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, and 
relates how that prince got his title of Pen Annwn, or "Head 
of Hades" — Annwn being the term under which we identify in 
Welsh literature the Celtic Land of the Dead, or Fairyland. It is a 
story with a mythological basis, but breathing the purest spirit of 
[357] chivalric honour and nobility. 

Pwyll, it is said, was hunting one day in the woods of Glyn 
Cuch when he saw a pack of hounds, not his own, running 
down a stag. These hounds were snow-white in colour, with red 
ears. If Pwyll had had any experience in these matters he would 
have known at once what kind of hunt was up, for these are the 
colours of Faery — the red-haired man, the red-eared hound are 
always associated with magic. 228 Pwyll, however, drove off the 
strange hounds, and was setting his own on the quarry when a 
horseman of noble appearance came up and reproached him for 
his discourtesy. Pwyll offered to make amends, and the story 
now develops into the familiar theme of the Rescue of Fairyland. 
The stranger's name is Arawn, a king in Annwn. He is being 
harried and dispossessed by a rival, Havgan, and he seeks the aid 
of Pwyll, whom he begs to meet Havgan in single combat a year 
hence. Meanwhile he will put his own shape on Pwyll, who is to 
rule in his kingdom till the eventful day, while Arawn will go in 
Pwyll's shape to govern Dyfed. He instructs Pwyll how to deal 
with the foe. Havgan must be laid low with a single stroke — if 
another is given to him he immediately revives again as strong 
as ever. 

Pwyll agreed to follow up the adventure, and accordingly went 
in Arawn's shape to the kingdom of Annwn. Here he was placed 

228 See, e.g., pp. 111,272. 


in an unforeseen difficulty. The beautiful wife of Arawn greeted 
him as her husband. But when the time came for them to retire 
to rest he set his face to the wall and said no word to her, nor 
touched her at all until the morning broke. Then they rose up, 
and Pwyll went to the hunt, and ruled his kingdom, and did all 
things as if he were monarch of the land. And whatever affection 
he showed to the queen in public during the day, he passed every [358] 
night even as this first. 

At last the day of battle came, and, like the chieftains in 
Gaelic story, Pwyll and Havgan met each other in the midst of a 
river-ford. They fought, and at the first clash Havgan was hurled 
a spear's length over the crupper of his horse and fell mortally 
wounded. 229 "For the love of heaven," said he, "slay me and 
complete thy work." "I may yet repent that," said Pwyll. "Slay 
thee who may, I will not." Then Havgan knew that his end was 
come, and bade his nobles bear him off; and Pwyll with all his 
army overran the two kingdoms of Annwn, and made himself 
master of all the land, and took homage from its princes and 

Then he rode off alone to keep his tryst in Glyn Cuch with 
Arawn as they had appointed. Arawn thanked him for all 
he had done, and added: "When thou comest thyself to thine 
own dominions thou wilt see what I have done for thee." They 
exchanged shapes once more, and each rode in his own likeness 
to take possession of his own land. 

At the court of Annwn the day was spent in joy and feasting, 
though none but Arawn himself knew that anything unusual had 
taken place. When night came Arawn kissed and caressed his 
wife as of old, and she pondered much as to what might be the 
cause of his change towards her, and of his previous change a 

229 We see here that we have got far from primitive Celtic legend. The heroes 
fight like mediaeval knights on horseback, tilting at each other with spears, not 
in chariots or on foot, and not with the strange weapons which figure in Gaelic 

310 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

year and a day before. And as she was thinking over these things 
Arawn spoke to her twice or thrice, but got no answer. He then 
asked her why she was silent. "I tell thee," she said, "that for 
[359] a year I have not spoken so much in this place." "Did not we 

speak continually?" he said. "Nay," said she, "but for a year 
back there has been neither converse nor tenderness between us." 
"Good heaven!" thought Arawn, "a man as faithful and firm in 
his friendship as any have I found for a friend." Then he told his 
queen what had passed. "Thou hast indeed laid hold of a faithful 
friend," she said. 

And Pwyll when he came back to his own land called his 
lords together and asked them how they thought he had sped 
in his kingship during the past year. "Lord," said they, "thy 
wisdom was never so great, and thou wast never so kind and free 
in bestowing thy gifts, and thy justice was never more worthily 
seen than in this year." Pwyll then told them the story of his 
adventure. "Verily, lord," said they, "render thanks unto heaven 
that thou hast such a fellowship, and withhold not from us the 
rule which we have enjoyed for this year past." "I take heaven to 
witness that I will not withhold it," said Pwyll. 

So the two kings made strong the friendship that was between 
them, and sent each other rich gifts of horses and hounds and 
jewels; and in memory of the adventure Pwyll bore thenceforward 
the title of "Lord of Annwn." 

The Wedding of Pwyll and Rhiannon 

Near to the castle of Narberth, where Pwyll had his court, 
there was a mound called the Mound of Arberth, of which it was 
believed that whoever sat upon it would have a strange adventure: 
either he would receive blows and wounds or he would see a 
wonder. One day when all his lords were assembled at Narberth 
for a feast Pwyll declared that he would sit on the mound and see 
what would befall. 
[360] He did so, and after a little while saw approaching him along 

the road that led to the mound a lady clad in garments that shone 


like gold, and sitting on a pure white horse. "Is there any among 
you," said Pwyll to his men, "who knows that lady?" "There is 
not," said they. "Then go to meet her and learn who she is." But 
as they rode towards the lady she moved away from them, and 
however fast they rode she still kept an even distance between 
her and them, yet never seemed to exceed the quiet pace with 
which she had first approached. 

Several times did Pwyll seek to have the lady overtaken and 
questioned, but all was in vain — none could draw near to her. 

Next day Pwyll ascended the mound again, and once more 
the fair lady on her white steed drew near. This time Pwyll 
himself pursued her, but she flitted away before him as she had 
done before his servants, till at last he cried : "O maiden, for the 
sake of him thou best lovest, stay for me." "I will stay gladly," 
said she, "and it were better for thy horse had thou asked it long 

Pwyll then questioned her as to the cause of her coming, and 
she said: "I am Rhiannon, the daughter of Hevydd Hen, 230 and 
they sought to give me to a husband against my will. But no 
husband would I have, and that because of my love for thee; 
neither will I yet have one if thou reject me." "By heaven!" said 
Pwyll, "if I might choose among all the ladies and damsels of the 
world, thee would I choose." 

They then agree that in a twelvemonth from that day Pwyll is 
to come and claim her at the palace of Hevydd Hen. 

Pwyll kept his tryst, with a following of a hundred knights, [36 1] 
and found a splendid feast prepared for him, and he sat by his 
lady, with her father on the other side. As they feasted and talked 
there entered a tall, auburn-haired youth of royal bearing, clad 
in satin, who saluted Pwyll and his knights. Pwyll invited him 
to sit down. "Nay, I am a suitor to thee," said the youth; "to 
crave a boon am I come." "Whatever thou wilt thou shalt have," 

230 Hen, "the Ancient"; an epithet generally implying a hoary antiquity 
associated with mythological tradition. 

312 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

said Pwyll unsuspiciously, "if it be in my power." "Ah," cried 
Rhiannon, "wherefore didst thou give that answer?" "Hath he 
not given it before all these nobles?" said the youth; "and now 
the boon I crave is to have thy bride Rhiannon, and the feast and 
the banquet that are in this place." Pwyll was silent. "Be silent 
as long as thou wilt," said Rhiannon. "Never did man make 
worse use of his wits than thou hast done." She tells him that 
the auburn-haired young man is Gwawl, son of Clud, and is the 
suitor to escape from whom she had fled to Pwyll. 

Pwyll is bound in honour by his word, and Rhiannon explains 
that the banquet cannot be given to Gwawl, for it is not in Pwyll's 
power, but that she herself will be his bride in a twelvemonth; 
Gwawl is to come and claim her then, and a new bridal feast will 
be prepared for him. Meantime she concerts a plan with Pwyll, 
and gives him a certain magical bag, which he is to make use of 
when the time shall come. 

A year passed away, Gwawl appeared according to the 
compact, and a great feast was again set forth, in which he, 
and not Pwyll, had the place of honour. As the company were 
making merry, however, a beggar clad in rags and shod with 
clumsy old shoes came into the hall, carrying a bag, as beggars 
are wont to do. He humbly craved a boon of Gwawl. It was 
merely that the full of his bag of food might be given him from 
[362] the banquet. Gwawl cheerfully consented, and an attendant went 

to fill the bag. But however much they put into it it never got 
fuller — by degrees all the good things on the tables had gone 
in; and at last Gwawl cried: "My soul, will thy bag never be 
full?" "It will not, I declare to heaven," answered Pwyll — for 
he, of course, was the disguised beggar man — "unless some man 
wealthy in lands and treasure shall get into the bag and stamp it 
down with his feet, and declare, 'Enough has been put herein.' '" 
Rhiannon urged Gwawl to check the voracity of the bag. He put 
his two feet into it; Pwyll immediately drew up the sides of the 
bag over Gwawl's head and tied it up. Then he blew his horn, and 


the knights he had with him, who were concealed outside, rushed 
in, and captured and bound the followers of Gwawl. "What is 
in the bag?" they cried, and others answered, "A badger," and 
so they played the game of "Badger in the Bag," striking it and 
kicking it about the hall. 

At last a voice was heard from it. "Lord," cried Gwawl, "if 
thou wouldst but hear me, I merit not to be slain in a bag." "He 
speaks truth," said Hevydd Hen. 

So an agreement was come to that Gwawl should provide 
means for Pwyll to satisfy all the suitors and minstrels who 
should come to the wedding, and abandon Rhiannon, and never 
seek to have revenge for what had been done to him. This was 
confirmed by sureties, and Gwawl and his men were released 
and went to their own territory. And Pwyll wedded Rhiannon, 
and dispensed gifts royally to all and sundry; and at last the pair, 
when the feasting was done, journeyed down to the palace of 
Narberth in Dyfed, where Rhiannon gave rich gifts, a bracelet 
and a ring or a precious stone to all the lords and ladies of her [363] 
new country, and they ruled the land in peace both that year and 
the next. But the reader will find that we have not yet done with 

The Penance of Rhiannon 

Now Pwyll was still without an heir to the throne, and his 
nobles urged him to take another wife. "Grant us a year longer," 
said he, "and if there be no heir after that it shall be as you wish." 
Before the year's end a son was born to them in Narberth. But 
although six women sat up to watch the mother and the infant, 
it happened towards the morning that they all fell asleep, and 
Rhiannon also slept, and when the women awoke, behold, the 
boy was gone! "We shall be burnt for this," said the women, 
and in their terror they concocted a horrible plot: they killed a 
cub of a staghound that had just been littered, and laid the bones 
by Rhiannon, and smeared her face and hands with blood as she 
slept, and when she woke and asked for her child they said she 

314 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

had devoured it in the night, and had overcome them with furious 
strength when they would have prevented her — and for all she 
could say or do the six women persisted in this story. 

When the story was told to Pwyll he would not put away 
Rhiannon, as his nobles now again begged him to do, but a 
penance was imposed on her — namely, that she was to sit every 
day by the horse-block at the gate of the castle and tell the tale 
to every stranger who came, and offer to carry them on her back 
into the castle. And this she did for part of a year. 

The Finding of Pryderi 231 

Now at this time there lived a man named Teirnyon of Gwent 
[364] Is Coed, who had the most beautiful mare in the world, but there 

was this misfortune attending her, that although she foaled on 
the night of every first of May, none ever knew what became 
of the colts. At last Teirnyon resolved to get at the truth of the 
matter, and the next night on which the mare should foal he 
armed himself and watched in the stable. So the mare foaled, 
and the colt stood up, and Teirnyon was admiring its size and 
beauty when a great noise was heard outside, and a long, clawed 
arm came through the window of the stable and laid hold of the 
colt. Teirnyon immediately smote at the arm with his sword, and 
severed it at the elbow, so that it fell inside with the colt, and 
a great wailing and tumult was heard outside. He rushed out, 
leaving the door open behind him, but could see nothing because 
of the darkness of the night, and he followed the noise a little 
way. Then he came back, and behold, at the door he found an 
infant in swaddling-clothes and wrapped in a mantle of satin. He 
took up the child and brought it to where his wife lay sleeping. 
She had no children, and she loved the child when she saw it, 
and next day pretended to her women that she had borne it as her 
own. And they called its name Gwri of the Golden Hair, for its 
hair was yellow as gold; and it grew so mightily that in two years 

231 Pronounced "Pry-dair'y.' 


it was as big and strong as a child of six; and ere long the colt 
that had been foaled on the same night was broken in and given 
him to ride. 

While these things were going on Teirnyon heard the tale 
of Rhiannon and her punishment. And as the lad grew up he 
scanned his face closely and saw that he had the features of Pwyll 
Prince of Dyfed. This he told to his wife, and they agreed that the 
child should be taken to Narberth, and Rhiannon released from 
her penance. 

As they drew near to the castle, Teirnyon and two knights and 
the child riding on his colt, there was Rhiannon sitting by the [365] 
horse-block. "Chieftains," said she, "go not further thus; I will 
bear every one of you into the palace, and this is my penance 
for slaying my own son and devouring him." But they would 
not be carried, and went in. Pwyll rejoiced to see Teirnyon, and 
made a feast for him. Afterwards Teirnyon declared to Pwyll 
and Rhiannon the adventure of the man and the colt, and how 
they had found the boy. "And behold, here is thy son, lady," said 
Teirnyon, "and whoever told that lie concerning thee has done 
wrong." All who sat at table recognised the lad at once as the 
child of Pwyll, and Rhiannon cried: "I declare to heaven that if 
this be true there is an end to my trouble." And a chief named 
Pendaran said: "Well hast thou named thy son Pryderi [trouble], 
and well becomes him the name of Pryderi son of Pwyll, Lord of 
Annwn." It was agreed that his name should be Pryderi, and so 
he was called thenceforth. 

Teirnyon rode home, overwhelmed with thanks and love and 
gladness; and Pwyll offered him rich gifts of horses and jewels 
and dogs, but he would take none of them. And Pryderi was 
trained up, as befitted a king's son, in all noble ways and 
accomplishments, and when his father Pwyll died he reigned 
in his stead over the Seven Cantrevs of Dyfed. And he added 
to them many other fair dominions, and at last he took to wife 
Kicva, daughter of Gwynn Gohoyw, who came of the lineage of 

316 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Prince Casnar of Britain. 

The Tale of Bran and Branwen 

Bendigeid Vran, or "Bran the Blessed," by which latter name 
we shall designate him here, when he had been made King of 
the Isle of the Mighty (Britain), was one time in his court at 
Harlech. And he had with him his brother Manawyddan son 
[366] of Llyr, and his sister Branwen, and the two sons, Nissyen and 

Evnissyen, that Penardun his mother bore to Eurosswyd. Now 
Nissyen was a youth of gentle nature, and would make peace 
among his kindred and cause them to be friends when their wrath 
was at its highest; but Evnissyen loved nothing so much as to 
turn peace into contention and strife. 

One afternoon, as Bran son of Llyr sat on the rock of Harlech 
looking out to sea, he beheld thirteen ships coming rapidly from 
Ireland before a fair wind. They were gaily furnished, bright 
flags flying from the masts, and on the foremost ship, when they 
came near, a man could be seen holding up a shield with the 
point upwards in sign of peace. 232 

When the strangers landed they saluted Bran and explained 
their business. Matholwch, 233 King of Ireland, was with them; 
his were the ships, and he had come to ask for the hand in 
marriage of Bran's sister, Branwen, so that Ireland and Britain 
might be leagued together and both become more powerful. 
"Now Branwen was one of the three chief ladies of the island, 
and she was the fairest damsel in the world." 

The Irish were hospitably entertained, and after taking counsel 
with his lords Bran agreed to give his sister to Matholwch. The 
place of the wedding was fixed at Aberffraw, and the company 
assembled for the feast in tents because no house could hold the 

232 Evidently this was the triangular Norman shield, not the round or oval 
Celtic one. It has already been noticed that in these Welsh tales the knights 
when they fight tilt at each other with spears. 

233 The reader may pronounce this "Matholaw." 


giant form of Bran. They caroused and made merry in peace and 
amity, and Branwen became the bride or the Irish king. 

Next day Evnissyen came by chance to where the horses of [367] 
Matholwch were ranged, and he asked whose they were. "They 
are the horses of Matholwch, who is married to thy sister." "And 
is it thus," said he, "they have done with a maiden such as she, 
and, moreover, my sister, bestowing her without my consent? 
They could offer me no greater insult." Thereupon he rushed 
among the horses and cut off their lips at the teeth, and their ears 
to their heads, and their tails close to the body, and where he 
could seize the eyelids he cut them off to the bone. 

When Matholwch heard what had been done he was both 
angered and bewildered, and bade his people put to sea. Bran 
sent messengers to learn what had happened, and when he had 
been informed he sent Manawyddan and two others to make 
atonement. Matholwch should have sound horses for every one 
that was injured, and in addition a staff of silver as large and as 
tall as himself, and a plate of gold the size of his face. "And let 
him come and meet me," he added, "and we will make peace in 
any way he may desire." But as for Evnissyen, he was the son of 
Bran's mother, and therefore Bran could not put him to death as 
he deserved. 

The Magic Cauldron 

Matholwch accepted these terms, but not very cheerfully, and 
Bran now offered another treasure, namely, a magic cauldron 
which had the property that if a slain man were cast into it he 
would come forth well and sound, only he would not be able 
to speak. Matholwch and Bran then talked about the cauldron, 
which originally, it seems, came from Ireland. There was a lake 
in that country near to a mound (doubtless a fairy mound) which 
was called the Lake of the Cauldron. Here Matholwch had once 
met a tall and ill-looking fellow with a wife bigger than himself, 
and the cauldron strapped on his back. They took service with [368] 
Matholwch. At the end of a period of six weeks the wife gave 

318 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

birth to a son, who was a warrior fully armed. We are apparently 
to understand that this happened every six weeks, for by the 
end of the year the strange pair, who seem to be a war-god and 
goddess, had several children, whose continual bickering and the 
outrages they committed throughout the land made them hated. 
At last, to get rid of them, Matholwch had a house of iron made, 
and enticed them into it. He then barred the door and heaped 
coals about the chamber, and blew them into a white heat, hoping 
to roast the whole family to death. As soon, however, as the iron 
walls had grown white-hot and soft the man and his wife burst 
through them and got away, but the children remained behind 
and were destroyed. Bran then took up the story. The man, 
who was called Llassar Llaesgyvnewid, and his wife Kymideu 
Kymeinvoll, come across to Britain, where Bran took them in, 
and in return for his kindness they gave him the cauldron. And 
since then they had filled the land with their descendants, who 
prospered everywhere and dwelt in strong fortified burgs and had 
the best weapons that ever were seen. 

So Matholwch received the cauldron along with his bride, and 
sailed back to Ireland, where Branwen entertained the lords and 
ladies of the land, and gave to each, as he or she took leave, 
"either a clasp or a ring or a royal jewel to keep, such as it was 
honourable to be seen departing with." And when the year was 
out Branwen bore a son to Matholwch, whose name was called 

The Punishment of Branwen 

There occurs now an unintelligible place in the story. In the 
[369] second year, it appears, and not till then, the men of Ireland grew 

indignant over the insult to their king committed by Evnissyen, 
and took revenge for it by having Branwen degraded to the 
position of a cook, and they caused the butcher every day to 
give her a blow on the ears. They also forbade all ships and 
ferry-boats to cross to Cambria, and any who came thence into 
Ireland were imprisoned so that news of Branwen's ill-treatment 


might not come to the ears of Bran. But Branwen reared up a 
young starling in a corner of her kneading-trough, and one day 
she tied a letter under its wing and taught it what to do. It flew 
away towards Britain, and finding Bran at Caer Seiont in Arvon, 
it lit on his shoulder, ruffling its feathers, and the letter was found 
and read. Bran immediately prepared a great hosting for Ireland, 
and sailed thither with a fleet of ships, leaving his land of Britain 
under his son Caradawc and six other chiefs. 

The Invasion of Bran 

Soon there came messengers to Matholwch telling him of a 
wondrous sight they had seen; a wood was growing on the sea, 
and beside the wood a mountain with a high ridge in the middle 
of it, and two lakes, one at each side. And wood and mountain 
moved towards the shore of Ireland. Branwen is called up to 
explain, if she could, what this meant. She tells them the wood 
is the masts and yards of the fleet of Britain, and the mountain 
is Bran, her brother, coming into shoal water, "for no ship can 
contain him"; the ridge is his nose, the lakes his two eyes. 23 

The King of Ireland and his lords at once took counsel together 
how they might meet this danger; and the plan they agreed upon 
was as follows: A huge hall should be built, big enough to hold [370] 
Bran — this, it was hoped, would placate him — there should be a 
great feast made there for himself and his men, and Matholwch 
should give over the kingdom of Ireland to him and do homage. 
All this was done by Branwen's advice. But the Irish added a 
crafty device of their own. From two brackets on each of the 
hundred pillars in the hall should be hung two leather bags, with 
an armed warrior in each of them ready to fall upon the guests 
when the moment should arrive. 

The Meal-bags 

Evnissyen, however, wandered into the hall before the rest of 
the host, and scanning the arrangements "with fierce and savage 

234 Compare the description of Mac Cecht in the tale of the Hostel of De 
Derga, p. 173. 

320 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

looks," he saw the bags which hung from the pillars. "What is in 
this bag?" said he to one of the Irish. "Meal, good soul," said the 
Irishman. Evnissyen laid his hand on the bag, and felt about with 
his fingers till he came to the head of the man within it. Then 
"he squeezed the head till he felt his fingers meet together in the 
brain through the bone." He went to the next bag, and asked the 
same question. "Meal," said the Irish attendant, but Evnissyen 
crushed this warrior's head also, and thus he did with all the two 
hundred bags, even in the case of one warrior whose head was 
covered with an iron helm. 

Then the feasting began, and peace and concord reigned, 
and Matholwch laid down the sovranty of Ireland, which was 
conferred on the boy Gwern. And they all fondled and caressed 
the fair child till he came to Evnissyen, who suddenly seized him 
and flung him into the blazing fire on the hearth. Branwen would 
have leaped after him, but Bran held her back. Then there was 
[371] arming apace, and tumult and shouting, and the Irish and British 

hosts closed in battle and fought until the fall of night. 

Death of Evnissyen 

But at night the Irish heated the magic cauldron and threw into 
it the bodies of their dead, who came out next day as good as 
ever, but dumb. When Evnissyen saw this he was smitten with 
remorse for having brought the men of Britain into such a strait: 
"Evil betide me if I find not a deliverance therefrom." So he hid 
himself among the Irish dead, and was flung into the cauldron 
with the rest at the end of the second day, when he stretched 
himself out so that he rent the cauldron into four pieces, and his 
own heart burst with the effort, and he died. 

The Wonderful Head 

In the end, all the Irishmen were slain, and all but seven 
of the British besides Bran, who was wounded in the foot 
with a poisoned arrow. Among the seven were Pryderi and 
Manawyddan. Bran then commanded them to cut off his head. 
"And take it with you," he said, "to London, and there bury it 


in the White Mount 235 looking towards France, and no foreigner 
shall invade the land while it is there. On the way the Head 
will talk to you, and be as pleasant company as ever in life. In 
Harlech ye will be feasting seven years and the birds of Rhiannon 
will sing to you. And at Gwales in Penvro ye will be feasting 
fourscore years, and the Head will talk to you and be uncorrupted 
till ye open the door looking towards Cornwall. After that ye 
may no longer tarry, but set forth to London and bury the Head." 

Then the seven cut off the head of Bran and went forth, and [372] 
Branwen with them, to do his bidding. But when Branwen came 
to land at Aber Alaw she cried, "Woe is me that I was ever born; 
two islands have been destroyed because of me." And she uttered 
a loud groan, and her heart broke. They made her a four-sided 
grave on the banks of the Alaw, and the place was called Ynys 
Branwen to this day. 23 

The seven found that in the absence of Bran, Caswallan son 
of Beli had conquered Britain and slain the six captains of 
Caradawc. By magic art he had thrown on Caradawc the Veil of 
Illusion, and Caradawc saw only the sword which slew and slew, 
but not him who wielded it, and his heart broke for grief at the 

They then went to Harlech and remained there seven years 
listening to the singing of the birds of Rhiannon — "all the songs 
they had ever heard were unpleasant compared thereto." Then 
they went to Gwales in Penvro and found a fair and spacious 
hall overlooking the ocean. When they entered it they forgot 
all the sorrow of the past and all that had befallen them, and 
remained there fourscore years in joy and mirth, the wondrous 
Head talking to them as if it were alive. And bards call this "the 
Entertaining of the Noble Head." Three doors were in the hall, 

235 Where the Tower of London now stands. 

236 These stories, in Ireland and in Wales, always attach themselves to actual 
burial-places. In 1813 a funeral urn containing ashes and half-burnt bones was 
found in the spot traditionally supposed to be Branwen's sepulchre. 

322 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

and one of them which looked to Cornwall and to Aber Henvelyn 
was closed, but the other two were open. At the end of the time, 
Heilyn son of Gwyn said, "Evil betide me if I do not open the 
door to see if what was said is true." And he opened it, and at 
once remembrance and sorrow fell upon them, and they set forth 
at once for London and buried the Head in the White Mount, 
[373] where it remained until Arthur dug it up, for he would not have 

the land defended but by the strong arm. And this was "the Third 
Fatal Disclosure" in Britain. 

So ends this wild tale, which is evidently full of mythological 
elements, the key to which has long been lost. The touches 
of Northern ferocity which occur in it have made some critics 
suspect the influence of Norse or Icelandic literature in giving 
it its present form. The character of Evnissyen would certainly 
lend countenance to this conjecture. The typical mischief-maker 
of course occurs in purely Celtic sagas, but not commonly in 
combination with the heroic strain shown in Evnissyen's end, nor 
does the Irish "poison-tongue" ascend to anything like the same 
height of daimonic malignity. 

The Tale of Pryderi and Manawyddan 

After the events of the previous tales Pryderi and Manawyddan 
retired to the dominions of the former, and Manawyddan took to 
wife Rhiannon, the mother of his friend. There they lived happily 
and prosperously till one day, while they were at the Gorsedd, or 
Mound, near Narberth, a peal of thunder was heard and a thick 
mist fell so that nothing could be seen all round. When the mist 
cleared away, behold, the land was bare before them — neither 
houses nor people nor cattle nor crops were to be seen, but all 
was desert and uninhabited. The palace of Narberth was still 
standing, but it was empty and desolate — none remained except 
Pryderi and Manawyddan and their wives, Kicva and Rhiannon. 

Two years they lived on the provisions they had, and on the 
prey they killed, and on wild honey; and then they began to 


be weary. "Let us go into Lloegyr," 237 then said Manawyddan, [374] 
"and seek out some craft to support ourselves." So they went to 
Hereford and settled there, and Manawyddan and Pryderi began 
to make saddles and housings, and Manawyddan decorated them 
with blue enamel as he had learned from a great craftsman, 
Llasar Llaesgywydd. After a time, however, the other saddlers of 
Hereford, finding that no man would purchase any but the work 
of Manawyddan, conspired to kill them. And Pryderi would have 
fought with them, but Manawyddan held it better to withdraw 
elsewhere, and so they did. 

They settled then in another city, where they made shields 
such as never were seen, and here, too, in the end, the rival 
craftsmen drove them out. And this happened also in another 
town where they made shoes; and at last they resolved to go back 
to Dyfed. Then they gathered their dogs about them and lived by 
hunting as before. 

One day they started a wild white boar, and chased him in 
vain until he led them up to a vast and lofty castle, all newly built 
in a place where they had never seen a building before. The boar 
ran into the castle, the dogs followed him, and Pryderi, against 
the counsel of Manawyddan, who knew there was magic afoot, 
went in to seek for the dogs. 

He found in the centre of the court a marble fountain beside 
which stood a golden bowl on a marble slab, and being struck by 
the rich workmanship of the bowl, he laid hold of it to examine 
it, when he could neither withdraw his hand nor utter a single 
sound, but he remained there, transfixed and dumb, beside the 

Manawyddan went back to Narberth and told the story to 
Rhiannon. "An evil companion hast thou been," said she, "and a 
good companion hast thou lost." [375] 

Next day she went herself to explore the castle. She found 

324 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Pryderi still clinging to the bowl and unable to speak. She also, 
then, laid hold of the bowl, when the same fate befell her, and 
immediately afterwards came a peal of thunder, and a heavy mist 
fell, and when it cleared off the castle had vanished with all that 
it contained, including the two spell-bound wanderers. 

Manawyddan then went back to Narberth, where only Kicva, 
Pryderi's wife, now remained. And when she saw none but 
herself and Manawyddan in the place, "she sorrowed so that she 
cared not whether she lived or died." When Manawyddan saw 
this he said to her, "Thou art in the wrong if through fear of me 
thou grievest thus. I declare to thee were I in the dawn of youth I 
would keep my faith unto Pryderi, and unto thee also will I keep 
it." "Heaven reward thee," she said, "and that is what I deemed 
of thee." And thereupon she took courage and was glad. 

Kicva and Manawyddan then again tried to support themselves 
by shoemaking in Lloegyr, but the same hostility drove them 
back to Dyfed. This time, however, Manawyddan took back 
with him a load of wheat, and he sowed it, and he prepared three 
crofts for a wheat crop. Thus the time passed till the fields were 
ripe. And he looked at one of the crofts and said, "I will reap this 
to-morrow." But on the morrow when he went out in the grey 
dawn he found nothing there but bare straw — every ear had been 
cut off from the stalk and carried away. 

Next day it was the same with the second croft. But on the 
following night he armed himself and sat up to watch the third 
croft to see who was plundering him. At midnight, as he watched, 
he heard a loud noise, and behold, a mighty host of mice came 
pouring into the croft, and they climbed up each on a stalk and 
[376] nibbled off the ears and made away with them. He chased them 

in anger, but they fled far faster than he could run, all save one 
which was slower in its movements, and this he barely managed 
to overtake, and he bound it into his glove and took it home to 
Narberth, and told Kicva what had happened. "To-morrow," he 
said, "I will hang the robber I have caught," but Kicva thought it 


beneath his dignity to take vengeance on a mouse. 

Next day he went up to the Mound of Narberth and set up 
two forks for a gallows on the highest part of the hill. As he 
was doing this a poor scholar came towards him, and he was 
the first person Manawyddan had seen in Dyfed, except his own 
companions, since the enchantment began. 

The scholar asked him what he was about and begged him 
to let go the mouse — "111 doth it become a man of thy rank to 
touch such a reptile as this." "I will not let it go, by Heaven," 
said Manawyddan, and by that he abode, although the scholar 
offered him a pound of money to let it go free. "I care not," said 
the scholar, "except that I would not see a man of rank touching 
such a reptile," and with that he went his way. 

As Manawyddan was placing the cross-beam on the two forks 
of his gallows, a priest came towards him riding on a horse with 
trappings, and the same conversation ensued. The priest offered 
three pounds for the mouse's life, but Manawyddan refused to 
take any price for it. "Willingly, lord, do thy good pleasure," 
said the priest, and he, too, went his way. 

Then Manawyddan put a noose about the mouse's neck and 
was about to draw it up when he saw coming towards him a 
bishop with a great retinue of sumpter-horses and attendants. And 
he stayed his work and asked the bishop's blessing. "Heaven's 
blessing be unto thee," said the bishop; "what work art thou 
upon?" "Hanging a thief," replied Manawyddan. The bishop [377] 
offered seven pounds "rather than see a man of thy rank 
destroying so vile a reptile." Manawyddan refused. Four-and- 
twenty pounds was then offered, and then as much again, then all 
the bishop's horses and baggage — all in vain. "Since for this thou 
wilt not," said the bishop, "do it at whatever price thou wilt." "I 
will do so," said Manawyddan; "I will that Rhiannon and Pryderi 
be free." "That thou shalt have," said the (pretended) bishop. 
Then Manawyddan demands that the enchantment and illusion 
be taken off for ever from the seven Cantrevs of Dyfed, and 

326 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

finally insists that the bishop shall tell him who the mouse is and 
why the enchantment was laid on the country. "I am Llwyd son 
of Kilcoed," replies the enchanter, "and the mouse is my wife; 
but that she is pregnant thou hadst never overtaken her." He goes 
on with an explanation which takes us back to the first Mabinogi 
of the Wedding of Rhiannon. The charm was cast on the land to 
avenge the ill that was done Llwyd's friend, Gwawl son of Clud, 
with whom Pryderi's father and his knights had played "Badger 
in the Bag" at the court of Hevydd Hen. The mice were the lords 
and ladies of Llwyd's court. 

The enchanter is then made to promise that no further 
vengeance shall be taken on Pryderi, Rhiannon, or Manawyddan, 
and the two spell-bound captives having been restored, the mouse 
is released. "Then Llwyd struck her with a magic wand, and she 
was changed into a young woman, the fairest ever seen." And on 
looking round Manawyddan saw all the land tilled and peopled as 
in its best state, and full of herds and dwellings. "What bondage," 
he asks, "has there been upon Pryderi and Rhiannon?" "Pryderi 
[378] has had the knockers of the gate of my palace about his neck, and 

Rhiannon has had the collars of the asses after they have been 
carrying hay about her neck." And such had been their bondage. 

The Tale of Math Son of Mathonwy 

The previous tale was one of magic and illusion in which 
the mythological element is but faint. In that which we have 
now to consider we are, however, in a distinctly mythological 
region. The central motive of the tale shows us the Powers of 
Light contending with those of the Under-world for the prized 
possessions of the latter, in this case a herd of magic swine. We 
are introduced in the beginning of the story to the deity, Math, of 
whom the bard tells us that he was unable to exist unless his feet 
lay in the lap of a maiden, except when the land was disturbed by 
war. 238 Math is represented as lord of Gwynedd, while Pryderi 

238 This is a distorted reminiscence of the practice which seems to have 
obtained in the courts of Welsh princes, that a high officer should hold the 


rules over the one-and-twenty cantrevs of the south. With Math 
were his nephews Gwydion and Gilvaethwy sons of Ddn, who 
went the circuit of the land in his stead, while Math lay with his 
feet in the lap of the fairest maiden of the land and time, Goewin 
daughter of Pebin of D51 Pebin in Arvon. 

Gwydion and the Swine of Pryderi 

Gilvaethwy fell sick of love for Goewin, and confided the 
secret to his brother Gwydion, who undertook to help him to 
his desire. So he went to Math one day, and asked his leave 
to go to Pryderi and beg from him the gift, for Math, of a herd 
of swine which had been bestowed on him by Arawn King of 
Annwn. "They are beasts," he said, "such as never were known 
in this island before ... their flesh is better than the flesh of [379] 
oxen." Math bade him go, and he and Gilvaethwy started with 
ten companions for Dyfed. They came to Pryderi's palace in the 
guise of bards, and Gwydion, after being entertained at a feast, 
was asked to tell a tale to the court. After delighting every one 
with his discourse he begged for a gift of the swine. But Pryderi 
was under a compact with his people neither to sell nor give them 
until they had produced double their number in the land. "Thou 
mayest exchange them, though," said Gwydion, and thereupon 
he made by magic arts an illusion of twelve horses magnificently 
caparisoned, and twelve hounds, and gave them to Pryderi and 
made off with the swine as fast as possible, "for," said he to his 
companions, "the illusion will not last but from one hour to the 
same to-morrow." 

The intended result came to pass — Pryderi invaded the land 
to recover his swine, Math went to meet him in arms, and 
Gilvaethwy seized his opportunity and made Goewin his wife, 
although she was unwilling. 

Death of Pryderi 

The war was decided by a single combat between Gwydion 
and Pryderi. "And by force of strength and fierceness, and by the 

king's feet in his lap while he sat at meat. 

328 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

magic and charms of Gwydion, Pryderi was slain. And at Maen 
Tyriawc, above Melenryd, was he buried, and there is his grave." 

The Penance of Gwydion and Gilvaethwy 

When Math came back he found what Gilvaethwy had done, 
and he took Goewin to be his queen, but Gwydion and Gilvaethwy 
went into outlawry, and dwelt on the borders of the land. At last 
[380] they came and submitted themselves for punishment to Math. 

"Ye cannot compensate me my shame, setting aside the death of 
Pryderi," he said, "but since ye come hither to be at my will, I 
shall begin your punishment forthwith." So he turned them both 
into deer, and bade them come hither again in a twelvemonth. 

They came at the appointed time, bringing with them a young 
fawn. And the fawn was brought into human shape and baptized, 
and Gwydion and Gilvaethwy were changed into two wild swine. 
At the next year's end they came back with a young one who 
was treated as the fawn before him, and the brothers were made 
into wolves. Another year passed; they came back again with a 
young wolf as before, and this time their penance was deemed 
complete, and their human nature was restored to them, and Math 
gave orders to have them washed and anointed, and nobly clad 
as was befitting. 

The Children of Arianrod: Dylan 

The question then arose of appointing another virgin foot- 
holder, and Gwydion suggests his sister, Arianrod. She attends 
for the purpose, and Math asks her if she is a virgin. "I know 
not, lord, other than that I am," she says. But she failed in a 
magical test imposed by Math, and gave birth to two sons. One of 
these was named Dylan, "Son of the Wave," evidently a Cymric 
sea-deity. So soon as he was baptized "he plunged into the sea 
and swam as well as the best fish that was therein.... Beneath him 
no wave ever broke." A wild sea-poetry hangs about his name in 
Welsh legend. On his death, which took place, it is said, at the 
hand of his uncle Govannon, all the waves of Britain and Ireland 
wept for him. The roar of the incoming tide at the mouth of the 


river Conway is still called the "death-groan of Dylan." [381] 

Llew Llaw Gyffes 

The other infant was seized by Gwydion and brought up under 
his protection. Like other solar heroes, he grew very rapidly; 
when he was four he was as big as if he were eight, and the 
comeliest youth that ever was seen. One day Gwydion took 
him to visit his mother Arianrod. She hated the children who 
had exposed her false pretensions, and upbraided Gwydion for 
bringing the boy into her sight. "What is his name?" she asked. 
"Verily," said Gwydion, "he has not yet a name." "Then I lay 
this destiny upon him," said Arianrod, "that he shall never have 
a name till one is given him by me." On this Gwydion went forth 
in wrath, and remained in his castle of Caer Dathyl that night. 

Though the fact does not appear in this tale, it must be 
remembered that Gwydion is, in the older mythology, the father 
of Arianrod's children. 

How Llew Got his Name 

He was resolved to have a name for his son. Next day he went 
to the strand below Caer Arianrod, bringing the boy with him. 
Here he sat down by the beach, and in his character of a master 
of magic he made himself look like a shoemaker, and the boy 
like an apprentice, and he began to make shoes out of sedges and 
seaweed, to which he gave the semblance of Cordovan leather. 
Word was brought to Arianrod of the wonderful shoes that were 
being made by a strange cobbler, and she sent her measure for 
a pair. Gwydion made them too large. She sent it again, and 
he made them too small. Then she came herself to be fitted. 
While this was going on, a wren came and lit on the boat's mast, 
and the boy, taking up a bow, shot an arrow that transfixed 
the leg between the sinew and the bone. Arianrod admired the [382] 
brilliant shot. "Verily," she said, "with a steady hand (llaw gyffes) 
did the lion (llew) hit it." "No thanks to thee," cried Gwydion, 
"now he has got a name. Llew Llaw Gyffes shall he be called 

330 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

We have seen that the name really means the same thing as 
the Gaelic Lugh Lamfada, Lugh (Light) of the Long Arm; so 
that we have here an instance of a legend growing up round a 
misunderstood name inherited from a half-forgotten mythology. 

How Llew Took Arms 

The shoes went back immediately to sedges and seaweed 
again, and Arianrod, angry at being tricked, laid a new curse 
on the boy. "He shall never bear arms till I invest him with 
them." But Gwydion, going to Caer Arianrod with the boy in 
the semblance of two bards, makes by magic art the illusion of 
a foray of armed men round the castle. Arianrod gives them 
weapons to help in the defence, and thus again finds herself 
tricked by the superior craft of Gwydion. 

The Flower-Wife of Llew 

Next she said, "He shall never have a wife of the race that now 
inhabits this earth." This raised a difficulty beyond the powers 
of even Gwydion, and he went to Math, the supreme master of 
magic. "Well," said Math, "we will seek, I and thou, to form 
a wife for him out of flowers." "So they took the blossoms of 
the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the 
meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest 
and most graceful that man ever saw. And they baptized her, 
and gave her the name of Blodeuwedd, or Flower-face." They 
wedded her to Llew, and gave them the cantrev of Dinodig to 
[383] reign over, and there Llew and his bride dwelt for a season, 

happy, and beloved by all. 

Betrayal of Llew 

But Blodeuwedd was not worthy of her beautiful name and 
origin. One day when Llew was away on a visit with Math, a 
lord named Gronw Pebyr came a-hunting by the palace of Llew, 
and Blodeuwedd loved him from the moment she looked upon 
him. That night they slept together, and the next, and the next, 
and then they planned how to be rid of Llew for ever. But Llew, 
like the Gothic solar hero Siegfried, is invulnerable except under 


special circumstances, and Blodeuwedd has to learn from him 
how he may be slain. This she does under pretence of care for his 
welfare. The problem is a hard one. Llew can only be killed by a 
spear which has been a year in making, and has only been worked 
on during the Sacrifice of the Host on Sundays. Furthermore, he 
cannot be slain within a house or without, on horseback or on 
foot. The only way, in fact, is that he should stand with one foot 
on a dead buck and the other in a cauldron, which is to be used for 
a bath and thatched with a roof — if he is wounded while in this 
position with a spear made as directed the wound may be fatal, 
not otherwise. After a year, during which Gronw wrought at the 
spear, Blodeuwedd begged Llew to show her more fully what 
she must guard against, and he took up the required position to 
please her. Gronw, lurking in a wood hard by, hurled the deadly 
spear, and the head, which was poisoned, sank into Llew's body, 
but the shaft broke off. Then Llew changed into an eagle, and 
with a loud scream he soared up into the air and was no more 
seen, and Gronw took his castle and lands and added them to his 

Own. [384] 

These tidings at last reached Gwydion and Math, and Gwydion 
set out to find Llew. He came to the house of a vassal of his, 
from whom he learned that a sow that he had disappeared every 
day and could not be traced, but it came home duly each night. 
Gwydion followed the sow, and it went far away to the brook 
since called Nant y Llew, where it stopped under a tree and began 
feeding. Gwydion looked to see what it ate, and found that it 
fed on putrid flesh that dropped from an eagle sitting aloft on 
the tree, and it seemed to him that the eagle was Llew. Gwydion 
sang to it, and brought it gradually down the tree till it came to 
his knee, when he struck it with his magic wand and restored it 
to the shape of Llew, but worn to skin and bone — "no one ever 
saw a more piteous sight." 

The Healing of Llew 

When Llew was healed, he and Gwydion took vengeance on 

332 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

their foes. Blodeuwedd was changed into an owl and bidden to 
shun the light of day, and Gronw was slain by a cast of the spear 
of Llew that passed through a slab of stone to reach him, and the 
slab with the hole through it made by the spear of Llew remains 
by the bank of the river Cynvael in Ardudwy to this day. And 
Llew took possession, for the second time, of his lands, and ruled 
them prosperously all his days. 

The four preceding tales are called the Four Branches of the 
Mabinogi, and of the collection called the "Mabinogion" they 
form the most ancient and important part. 

The Dream of Maxen Wledig 

Following the order of the tales in the "Mabinogion," as 
presented in Mr. Nutt's edition, we come next to one which is a 
[385] pure work of invention, with no mythical or legendary element 

at all. It recounts how Maxen Wledig, Emperor of Rome, had a 
vivid dream, in which he was led into a strange country, where 
he saw a king in an ivory chair carving chessmen with a steel file 
from a rod of gold. By him, on a golden throne, was the fairest 
of maidens he had ever beheld. Waking, he found himself in 
love with the dream-maiden, and sent messengers far and wide to 
discover, if they could, the country and people that had appeared 
to him. They were found in Britain. Thither went Maxen, and 
wooed and wedded the maiden. In his absence a usurper laid 
hold of his empire in Rome, but with the aid of his British friends 
he reconquered his dominions, and many of them settled there 
with him, while others went home to Britain. The latter took 
with them foreign wives, but, it is said, cut out their tongues, lest 
they should corrupt the speech of the Britons. Thus early and 
thus powerful was the devotion to their tongue of the Cymry, of 
whom the mythical bard Taliesin prophesied: 

"Their God they will praise, 
Their speech they will keep, 
Their land they will lose, 
Except wild Walia." 


The Story of Lludd and Llevelys 

This tale is associated with the former one in the section 
entitled Romantic British History. It tells how Lludd son of 
Beli, and his brother Llevelys, ruled respectively over Britain 
and France, and how Lludd sought his brother's aid to stay the 
three plagues that were harassing the land. These three plagues 
were, first, the presence of a demoniac race called the Coranians; 
secondly, a fearful scream that was heard in every home in Britain 
on every May-eve, and scared the people out of their senses; [386] 
thirdly, the unaccountable disappearance of all provisions in the 
king's court every night, so that nothing that was not consumed 
by the household could be found the next morning. Lludd and 
Llevelys talked over these matters through a brazen tube, for 
the Coranians could hear everything that was said if once the 
winds got hold of it — a property also attributed to Math, son of 
Mathonwy. Llevelys destroyed the Coranians by giving to Lludd 
a quantity of poisonous insects which were to be bruised up and 
scattered over the people at an assembly. These insects would 
slay the Coranians, but the people of Britain would be immune 
to them. The scream Llevelys explained as proceeding from two 
dragons, which fought each other once a year. They were to be 
slain by being intoxicated with mead, which was to be placed 
in a pit dug in the very centre of Britain, which was found on 
measurement to be at Oxford. The provisions, said Llevelys, 
were taken away by a giant wizard, for whom Lludd watched as 
directed, and overcame him in combat, and made him his faithful 
vassal thenceforward. Thus Lludd and Llevelys freed the island 
from its three plagues. 

Tales of Arthur 

We next come to five Arthurian tales, one of which, the tale of 
Kilhwch and Olwen, is the only native Arthurian legend which 
has come down to us in Welsh literature. The rest, as we have 
seen, are more or less reflections from the Arthurian literature as 
developed by foreign hands on the Continent. 

334 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Kilhwch and Olwen 

Kilhwch was son to Kilydd and his wife Goleuddydd, and is 
[387] said to have been cousin to Arthur. His mother having died, 

Kilydd took another wife, and she, jealous of her stepson, laid 
on him a quest which promised to be long and dangerous. "I 
declare," she said, "that it is thy destiny" — the Gael would have 
said geis — "not to be suited with a wife till thou obtain Olwen 
daughter of Yspaddaden Penkawr." 239 And Kilhwch reddened 
at the name, and "love of the maiden diffused itself through all 
his frame." By his father's advice he set out to Arthur's Court to 
learn how and where he might find and woo her. 

A brilliant passage then describes the youth in the flower of his 
beauty, on a noble steed caparisoned with gold, and accompanied 
by two brindled white-breasted greyhounds with collars of rubies, 
setting forth on his journey to King Arthur. "And the blade of 
grass bent not beneath him, so light was his courser's tread." 

Kilhwch at Arthur's Court 

After some difficulties with the Porter and with Arthur's 
seneschal, Kai, who did not wish to admit the lad while the 
company were sitting at meat, Kilhwch was brought into the 
presence of the King, and declared his name and his desire. 
"I seek this boon," he said, "from thee and likewise at the 
hands of thy warriors," and he then enumerates an immense list 
full of mythological personages and details — Bedwyr, Gwyn ap 
Nudd, Kai, Manawyddan, 240 Geraint, and many others, including 
"Morvran son of Tegid, whom no one struck at in the battle of 
Camlan by reason of his ugliness; all thought he was a devil," 
and "Sandde Bryd Angel, whom no one touched with a spear in 
the battle of Camlan because of his beauty; all thought he was a 
[388] ministering angel." The list extends to many scores of names and 

includes many women, as, for instance, "Creiddylad the daughter 

239 "Hawthorn, King of the Giants.' 

240 The gods of the family of Don are thus conceived as servitors to Arthur, 
who in this story is evidently the god Artaius. 


of Lludd of the Silver Hand — she was the most splendid maiden 
in the three Islands of the Mighty, and for her Gwythyr the son of 
Greidawl and Gwyn the son of Nudd fight every first of May till 
doom," and the two Iseults and Arthur's Queen, Gwenhwyvar. 
"All these did Kilydd's son Kilhwch adjure to obtain his boon." 

Arthur, however, had never heard of Olwen nor of her kindred. 
He promised to seek for her, but at the end of a year no tidings 
of her could be found, and Kilhwch declared that he would 
depart and leave Arthur shamed. Kai and Bedwyr, with the guide 
Kynddelig, are at last bidden to go forth on the quest. 

Servitors of Arthur 

These personages are very different from those who are called 
by the same names in Malory or Tennyson. Kai, it is said, could 
go nine days under water. He could render himself at will as tall 
as a forest tree. So hot was his physical constitution that nothing 
he bore in his hand could get wetted in the heaviest rain. "Very 
subtle was Kai." As for Bedwyr — the later Sir Bedivere — we 
are told that none equalled him in swiftness, and that, though 
one-armed, he was a match for any three warriors on the field of 
battle; his lance made a wound equal to those of nine. Besides 
these three there went also on the quest Gwrhyr, who knew 
all tongues, and Gwalchmai son of Arthur's sister Gwyar, and 
Menw, who could make the party invisible by magic spells. 


The party journeyed till at last they came to a great castle 
before which was a flock of sheep kept by a shepherd who had by [389] 
him a mastiff big as a horse. The breath of this shepherd, we are 
told, could burn up a tree. "He let no occasion pass without doing 
some hurt or harm." However, he received the party well, told 
them that he was Custennin, brother of Yspaddaden whose castle 
stood before them, and brought them home to his wife. The wife 
turned out to be a sister of Kilhwch's mother Goleuddydd, and she 
was rejoiced at seeing her nephew, but sorrowful at the thought 
that he had come in search of Olwen, "for none ever returned 

336 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

from that quest alive." Custennin and his family, it appears, have 
suffered much at the hands of Yspaddaden — all their sons but one 
being slain, because Yspaddaden envied his brother his share of 
their patrimony. So they associated themselves with the heroes 
in their quest. 

Olwen of the White Track 

Next day Olwen came down to the herdsman's house as usual, 
for she was wont to wash her hair there every Saturday, and 
each time she did so she left all her rings in the vessel and never 
sent for them again. She is described in one of those pictorial 
passages in which the Celtic passion for beauty has found such 
exquisite utterance. 

"The maiden was clothed in a robe of flame-coloured silk, and 
about her neck was a collar of ruddy gold on which were precious 
emeralds and rubies. More yellow was her head than the flower 
of the broom, and her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, 
and fairer were her hands and her fingers than the blossoms of the 
wood-anemone amidst the spray of the meadow fountain. The 
eye of the trained hawk, the glance of the three-mewed falcon, 
[390] was not brighter than hers. Her bosom was more snowy than the 

breast of the white swan, her cheek was redder than the reddest 
roses. Whoso beheld her was filled with her love. Four white 
trefoils sprang up wherever she trod. And therefore was she 
called Olwen." 241 

Kilhwch and she conversed together and loved each other, and 
she bade him go and ask her of her father and deny him nothing 
that he might demand. She had pledged her faith not to wed 
without his will, for his life would only last till the time of her 


Next day the party went to the castle and saw Yspaddaden. 
He put them off with various excuses, and as they left flung 

241 "She of the White Track." Compare the description of Etain, pp. 157, 158. 


after them a poisoned dart. Bedwyr caught it and flung it 
back, wounding him in the knee, and Yspaddaden cursed him in 
language of extraordinary vigour; the words seem to crackle and 
spit like flame. Thrice over this happened, and at last Yspaddaden 
declared what must be done to win Olwen. 

The Tasks of Kilhwch 

A long series of tasks follows. A vast hill is to be ploughed, 
sown, and reaped in one day; only Amathaon son of D5n can do 
it, and he will not. Govannon, the smith, is to rid the ploughshare 
at each headland, and he will not do it. The two dun oxen of 
Gwlwlyd are to draw the plough, and he will not lend them. 
Honey nine times sweeter than that of the bee must be got to 
make bragget for the wedding feast. A magic cauldron, a magic 
basket out of which comes any meat that a man desires, a magic 
horn, the sword of Gwrnach the Giant — all these must be won; [391] 
and many other secret and difficult things, some forty in all, 
before Kilhwch can call Olwen his own. The most difficult quest 
is that of obtaining the comb and scissors that are between the 
two ears of Twrch Trwyth, a king transformed into a monstrous 
boar. To hunt the boar a number of other quests must be 
accomplished — the whelp of Greid son of Eri is to be won, and a 
certain leash to hold him, and a certain collar for the leash, and a 
chain for the collar, and Mabon son of Modron for the huntsman 
and the horse of Gweddw to carry Mabon, and Gwyn son of 
Nudd to help, "whom God placed over the brood of devils in 
Annwn ... he will never be spared them," and so forth to an extent 
which makes the famous eric of the sons of Turenn seem trifling 
by comparison. "Difficulties shalt thou meet with, and nights 
without sleep, in seeking this [bride price], and if thou obtain 
it not, neither shalt thou have my daughter." Kilhwch has one 
answer for every demand: "It will be easy for me to accomplish 
this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy. And I 
shall gain thy daughter and thou shalt lose thy life." 

So they depart on their way to fulfil the tasks, and on their 

338 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

way home they fall in with Gwrnach the Giant, whose sword 
Kai, pretending to be a sword-polisher, obtains by a stratagem. 
On reaching Arthur's Court again, and telling the King what 
they have to do, he promises his aid. First of the marvels they 
accomplished was the discovery and liberation of Mabon son of 
Modron, "who was taken from his mother when three nights old, 
and it is not known where he is now, nor whether he is living or 
dead." Gwrhyr inquires of him from the Ousel of Cilgwri, who is 
so old that a smith's anvil on which he was wont to peck has been 
[392] worn to the size of a nut, yet he has never heard of Mabon. But he 

takes them to a beast older still, the Stag of Redynvre, and so on 
to the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd, and the Eagle of Gwern Abwy, and 
the Salmon of Llyn Llyw, the oldest of living things, and at last 
they find Mabon imprisoned in the stone dungeon of Gloucester, 
and with Arthur's help they release him, and so the second task 
is fulfilled. In one way or another, by stratagem, or valour, or 
magic art, every achievement is accomplished, including the last 
and most perilous one, that of obtaining "the blood of the black 
witch Orddu, daughter of the white witch Orwen, of Penn Nart 
Govid on the confines of Hell." The combat here is very like that 
of Finn in the cave of Keshcorran, but Arthur at last cleaves the 
hag in twain, and Kaw of North Britain takes her blood. 

So then they set forth for the castle of Yspaddaden again, and 
he acknowledges defeat. Goreu son of Custennin cuts off his 
head, and that night Olwen became the happy bride of Kilhwch, 
and the hosts of Arthur dispersed, every man to his own land. 

The Dream of Rhonabwy 

Rhonabwy was a man-at-arms under Madawc son of 
Maredudd, whose brother Iorwerth rose in rebellion against 
him; and Rhonabwy went with the troops of Madawc to put him 
down. Going with a few companions into a mean hut to rest for 
the night, he lies down to sleep on a yellow calf-skin by the fire, 
while his friends lie on filthy couches of straw and twigs. On the 
calf-skin he has a wonderful dream. He sees before him the court 


and camp of Arthur — here the g«an'-historical king, neither the 
legendary deity of the former tale nor the Arthur of the French 
chivalrous romances — as he moves towards Mount Badon for his 
great battle with the heathen. A character named Iddawc is his [393] 
guide to the King, who smiles at Rhonabwy and his friends, and 
asks: "Where, Iddawc, didst thou find these little men?" "I found 
them, lord, up yonder on the road." "It pitieth me," said Arthur, 
"that men of such stature as these should have the island in their 
keeping, after the men that guarded it of yore." Rhonabwy has 
his attention directed to a stone in the King's ring. "It is one of 
the properties of that stone to enable thee to remember that which 
thou seest here to-night, and hadst thou not seen the stone, thou 
wouldst never have been able to remember aught thereof." 

The different heroes and companions that compose Arthur's 
army are minutely described, with all the brilliant colour and 
delicate detail so beloved by the Celtic fabulist. The chief 
incident narrated is a game of chess that takes place between 
Arthur and the knight Owain son of Urien. While the game goes 
on, first the knights of Arthur harry and disturb the Ravens of 
Owain, but Arthur, when Owain complains, only says: "Play 
thy game." Afterwards the Ravens have the better of it, and it is 
Owain's turn to bid Arthur attend to his game. Then Arthur took 
the golden chessmen and crushed them to dust in his hand, and 
besought Owain to quiet his Ravens, which was done, and peace 
reigned again. Rhonabwy, it is said, slept three days and nights 
on the calf-skin before awaking from his wondrous dream. An 
epilogue declares that no bard is expected to know this tale by 
heart and without a book, "because of the various colours that 
were upon the horses, and the many wondrous colours of the 
arms and of the panoply, and of the precious scarfs, and of the 
virtue-bearing stones." The "Dream of Rhonabwy" is rather a 
gorgeous vision of the past than a story in the ordinary sense of 
the word. [394] 

The Lady of the Fountain 

340 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

We have here a Welsh reproduction of the Conte entitled 
"Le Chevalier au lion" of Chrestien de Troyes. The principal 
personage in the tale is Owain son of Urien, who appears in a 
character as foreign to the spirit of Celtic legend as it was familiar 
on the Continent, that of knight-errant. 

The Adventure of Kymon 

We are told in the introduction that Kymon, a knight of 
Arthur's Court, had a strange and unfortunate adventure. Riding 
forth in search of some deed of chivalry to do, he came to a 
splendid castle, where he was hospitably received by four-and- 
twenty damsels, of whom "the least lovely was more lovely 
than Gwenhwyvar, the wife of Arthur, when she has appeared 
loveliest at the Offering on the Day of the Nativity, or at the 
feast of Easter." With them was a noble lord, who, after Kymon 
had eaten, asked of his business. Kymon explained that he was 
seeking for his match in combat. The lord of the castle smiled, 
and bade him proceed as follows: He should take the road up 
the valley and through a forest till he came to a glade with a 
mound in the midst of it. On the mound he would see a black 
man of huge stature with one foot and one eye, bearing a mighty 
iron club. He was wood-ward of that forest, and would have 
thousands of wild animals, stags, serpents, and what not, feeding 
around him. He would show Kymon what he was in quest of. 

Kymon followed the instructions, and the black man directed 
him to where he should find a fountain under a great tree; by the 
side of it would be a silver bowl on a slab of marble. Kymon was 
[395] to take the bowl and throw a bowlful of water on the slab, when 

a terrific storm of hail and thunder would follow — then there 
would break forth an enchanting music of singing birds — then 
would appear a knight in black armour riding on a coal-black 
horse, with a black pennon upon his lance. "And if thou dost not 
find trouble in that adventure, thou needst not seek it during the 
rest of thy life." 

The Character of Welsh Romance 


Here let us pause for a moment to point out how clearly we 
are in the region of mediaeval romance, and how far from that 
of Celtic mythology. Perhaps the Celtic "Land of Youth" may 
have remotely suggested those regions of beauty and mystery 
into which the Arthurian knight rides in quest of adventure. But 
the scenery, the motives, the incidents, are altogether different. 
And how beautiful they are — how steeped in the magic light of 
romance! The colours live and glow, the forest murmurs in our 
ears, the breath of that springtime of our modern world is about 
us, as we follow the lonely rider down the grassy track into an 
unknown world of peril and delight. While in some respects the 
Continental tales are greater than the Welsh, more thoughtful, 
more profound, they do not approach them in the exquisite 
artistry with which the exterior aspect of things is rendered, the 
atmosphere of enchantment maintained, and the reader led, with 
ever-quickening interest, from point to point in the development 
of the tale. Nor are these Welsh tales a whit behind in the noble 
and chivalrous spirit which breathes through them. A finer school 
of character and of manners could hardly be found in literature. 
How strange that for many centuries this treasure beyond all price 
should have lain unnoticed in our midst! And how deep must be [396] 
our gratitude to the nameless bards whose thought created it, and 
to the nobly inspired hand which first made it a possession for 
all the English-speaking world! 

Defeat of Kymon 

But to resume our story. Kymon did as he was bidden, the 
Black Knight appeared, silently they set lance in rest and charged. 
Kymon was flung to earth, while his enemy, not bestowing one 
glance upon him, passed the shaft of his lance through the rein 
of Kymon' s horse and rode off with it in the direction whence 
he had come. Kymon went back afoot to the castle, where none 
asked him how he had sped, but they gave him a new horse, "a 
dark bay palfrey with nostrils as red as scarlet," on which he rode 
home to Caerleon. 

342 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Owain and the Black Knight 

Owain was, of course, fired by the tale of Kymon, and next 
morning at the dawn of day he rode forth to seek for the same 
adventure. All passed as it had done in Kymon's case, but Owain 
wounded the Black Knight so sorely that he turned his horse 
and fled, Owain pursuing him hotly. They came to a "vast and 
resplendent castle." Across the drawbridge they rode, the outer 
portcullis of which fell as the Black Knight passed it. But so close 
at his heels was Owain that the portcullis fell behind him, cutting 
his horse in two behind the saddle, and he himself remained 
imprisoned between the outer gate of the drawbridge and the 
inner. While he was in this predicament a maiden came to him 
and gave him a ring. When he wore it with the stone reversed 
and clenched in his hand he would become invisible, and when 
the servants of the lord of the castle came for him he was to elude 
[397] them and follow her. 

This she did knowing apparently who he was, "for as a friend 
thou art the most sincere, and as a lover the most devoted." 

Owain did as he was bidden, and the maiden concealed him. In 
that night a great lamentation was heard in the castle — its lord had 
died of the wound which Owain had given him. Soon afterwards 
Owain got sight of the mistress of the castle, and love of her took 
entire possession of him. Luned, the maiden who had rescued 
him, wooed her for him, and he became her husband, and lord 
of the Castle of the Fountain and all the dominions of the Black 
Knight. And he then defended the fountain with lance and sword 
as his forerunner had done, and made his defeated antagonists 
ransom themselves for great sums, which he bestowed among 
his barons and knights. Thus he abode for three years. 

The Search for Owain 

After this time Arthur, with his nephew Gwalchmai and with 
Kymon for guide, rode forth at the head of a host to search for 
tidings of Owain. They came to the fountain, and here they met 
Owain, neither knowing the other as their helms were down. 


And first Kai was overthrown, and then Gwalchmai and Owain 
fought, and after a while Gwalchmai was unhelmed. Owain said, 
"My lord Gwalchmai, I did not know thee; take my sword and 
my arms." Said Gwalchmai, "Thou, Owain, art the victor; take 
thou my sword." Arthur ended the contention in courtesy by 
taking the swords of both, and then they all rode to the Castle of 
the Fountain, where Owain entertained them with great joy. And 
he went back with Arthur to Caerleon, promising to his countess 
that he would remain there but three months and then return. [398] 

Owain Forgets his Lady 

But at the Court of Arthur he forgot his love and his duty, 
and remained there three years. At the end of that time a noble 
lady came riding upon a horse caparisoned with gold, and she 
sought out Owain and took the ring from his hand. "Thus," 
she said, "shall be treated the deceiver, the traitor, the faithless, 
the disgraced, and the beardless." Then she turned her horse's 
head and departed. And Owain, overwhelmed with shame and 
remorse, fled from the sight of men and lived in a desolate 
country with wild beasts till his body wasted and his hair grew 
long and his clothing rotted away. 

Owain and the Lion 

In this guise, when near to death from exposure and want, he 
was taken in by a certain widowed countess and her maidens, 
and restored to strength by magic balsams; and although they 
besought him to remain with them, he rode forth again, seeking 
for lonely and desert lands. Here he found a lion in battle with a 
great serpent. Owain slew the serpent, and the lion followed him 
and played about him as if it had been a greyhound that he had 
reared. And it fed him by catching deer, part of which Owain 
cooked for himself, giving the rest to his lion to devour; and the 
beast kept watch over him by night. 

Release of Luned 

Owain next finds an imprisoned damsel, whose sighs he hears, 
though he cannot see her nor she him. Being questioned, she 

344 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

told him that her name was Luned — she was the handmaid of a 
countess whose husband had left her, "and he was the friend I 
loved best in the world." Two of the pages of the countess had 
[399] traduced him, and because she defended him she was condemned 

to be burned if before a year was out he (namely, Owain son of 
Urien) had not appeared to deliver her. And the year would end 
to-morrow. On the next day Owain met the two youths leading 
Luned to execution and did battle with them. With the help of 
the lion he overcame them, rescued Luned, and returned to the 
Castle of the Fountain, where he was reconciled with his love. 
And he took her with him to Arthur's Court, and she was his wife 
there as long as she lived. Lastly comes an adventure in which, 
still aided by the lion, he vanquishes a black giant and releases 
four-and-twenty noble ladies, and the giant vows to give up his 
evil ways and keep a hospice for wayfarers as long as he should 

"And thenceforth Owain dwelt at Arthur's Court, greatly 
beloved, as the head of his household, until he went away with 
his followers; and these were the army of three hundred ravens 
which Kenverchyn 242 had left him. And wherever Owain went 
with these he was victorious. And this is the tale of the Lady of 
the Fountain." 

The Tale of Enid and Geraint 

In this tale, which appears to be based on the "Erec" of 
Chrestien de Troyes, the main interest is neither mythological 
nor adventurous, but sentimental. How Geraint found and wooed 
his love as the daughter of a great lord fallen on evil days; how 
he jousted for her with Edeyrn, son of Nudd — a Cymric deity 
transformed into the "Knight of the Sparrowhawk"; how, lapped 
in love of her, he grew careless of his fame and his duty; how he 
[400] misunderstood the words she murmured over him as she deemed 

242 There is no other mention of this Kenverchyn or of how Owain got his 
raven-army, also referred to in "The Dream of Rhonabwy." We have here 
evidently a piece of antique mythology embedded in a more modern fabric. 


him sleeping, and doubted her faith; how despitefully he treated 
her; and in how many a bitter test she proved her love and 
loyalty — all these things have been made so familiar to English 
readers in Tennyson's "Enid" that they need not detain us here. 
Tennyson, in this instance, has followed his original very closely. 

Legends of the Grail: The Tale of Peredur 

The Tale of Peredur is one of great interest and significance 
in connexion with the origin of the Grail legend. Peredur 
corresponds to the Perceval of Chrestien de Troyes, to whom we 
owe the earliest extant poem on the Grail; but that writer left his 
Grail story unfinished, and we never learn from him what exactly 
the Grail was or what gave it its importance. When we turn for 
light to "Peredur," which undoubtedly represents a more ancient 
form of the legend, we find ourselves baffled. For "Peredur" may 
be described as the Grail story without the Grail. 243 The strange 
personages, objects, and incidents which form the usual setting 
for the entry upon the scene of this mystic treasure are all here; 
we breathe the very atmosphere of the Grail Castle; but of the 
Grail itself there is no word. The story is concerned simply with 
the vengeance taken by the hero for the slaying of a kinsman, 
and for this end only are the mysteries of the Castle of Wonders 
displayed to him. 

We learn at the opening of the tale that Peredur was in the 
significant position of being a seventh son. To be a seventh 
son was, in this world of mystical romance, equivalent to being [401] 
marked out by destiny for fortunes high and strange. His father, 
Evrawc, an earl of the North, and his six brothers had fallen 
in fight. Peredur's mother, therefore, fearing a similar fate for 
her youngest child, brought him up in a forest, keeping from 

Like the Breton Tale of "Peronnik the Fool," translated in "Le Foyer 
Breton," by Emile Souvestre. The syllable Per which occurs in all forms of the 
hero's name means in Welsh and Cornish a bowl or vessel (Irish coire — see p. 
35, note). No satisfactory derivation has in any case been found of the latter 
part of the name. 

346 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

him all knowledge of chivalry or warfare and of such things 
as war-horses or weapons. Here he grew up a simple rustic in 
manner and in knowledge, but of an amazing bodily strength and 

He Goes Forth in Quest of Adventure 

One day he saw three knights on the borders of the forest. They 
were all of Arthur's Court — Gwalchmai, Geneir, and Owain. 
Entranced by the sight, he asked his mother what these beings 
were. "They are angels, my son," said she. "By my faith," said 
Peredur, "I will go and become an angel with them." He goes to 
meet them, and soon learns what they are. Owain courteously 
explains to him the use of a saddle, a shield, a sword, all the 
accoutrements of warfare; and Peredur that evening picked out a 
bony piebald draught-horse, and dressed him up in a saddle and 
trappings made of twigs, and imitated from those he had seen. 
Seeing that he was bent on going forth to deeds of chivalry, his 
mother gave him her blessing and sundry instructions, and bade 
him seek the Court of Arthur; "there there are the best, and the 
boldest, and the most beautiful of men." 

His First Feat of Arms 

Peredur mounted his Rosinante, took for weapons a handful of 
sharp-pointed stakes, and rode forth to Arthur's Court. Here the 
steward, Kai, rudely repulsed him for his rustic appearance, but 
[402] a dwarf and dwarfess, who had been a year at the Court without 

speaking one word to any one there, cried: "Goodly Peredur, 
son of Evrawc; the welcome of Heaven be unto thee, flower 
of knights and light of chivalry." Kai chastised the dwarfs for 
breaking silence by lauding such a fellow as Peredur, and when 
the latter demanded to be brought to Arthur, bade him first go and 
overcome a stranger knight who had just challenged the whole 
Court by throwing a goblet of wine into the face of Gwenhwy var, 
and whom all shrank from meeting. Peredur went out promptly to 
where the ruffian knight was swaggering up and down, awaiting 
an opponent, and in the combat that ensued pierced his skull 


with one of his sharp stakes and slew him. Owain then came out 
and found Peredur dragging his fallen enemy about. "What art 
thou doing there?" said Owain. "This iron coat," said Peredur, 
"will never come off from him; not by my efforts at any rate." 
So Owain showed him how to unfasten the armour, and Peredur 
took it, and the knight's weapons and horse, and rode forth to 
seek what further adventures might befall. 

Here we have the character of der reine Thor, the valiant and 
pure-hearted simpleton, clearly and vividly drawn. 

Peredur on leaving Arthur's Court had many encounters in 
which he triumphed with ease, sending the beaten knights to 
Caerleon-on-Usk with the message that he had overthrown them 
for the honour of Arthur and in his service, but that he, Peredur, 
would never come to the Court again till he had avenged the 
insult to the dwarfs upon Kai, who was accordingly reproved by 
Arthur and was greatly grieved thereat. 

The Castle of Wonders 

We now come into what the reader will immediately recognise 
as the atmosphere of the Grail legend. Peredur came to a castle [403] 
beside a lake, where he found a venerable man with attendants 
about him who were fishing in the lake. As Peredur approached, 
the aged man rose and went into the castle, and Peredur saw that 
he was lame. Peredur entered, and was hospitably received in a 
great hall. The aged man asked him, when they had done their 
meal, if he knew how to fight with the sword, and promised to 
teach him all knightly accomplishments, and "the manners and 
customs of different countries, and courtesy and gentleness and 
noble bearing." And he added: "I am thy uncle, thy mother's 
brother." Finally, he bade him ride forth, and remember, whatever 
he saw that might cause him wonder, not to ask the meaning of 
it if no one had the courtesy to inform him. This is the test of 
obedience and self-restraint on which the rest of the adventure 

On next riding forth, Peredur came to a vast desert wood, 

348 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

beyond which he found a great castle, the Castle of Wonders. He 
entered it by the open door, and found a stately, hoary-headed 
man sitting in a great hall with many pages about him, who 
received Peredur honourably. At meat Peredur sat beside the lord 
of the castle, who asked him, when they had done, if he could 
fight with a sword. "Were I to receive instruction," said Peredur, 
"I think I could." The lord then gave Peredur a sword, and bade 
him strike at a great iron staple that was in the floor. Peredur did 
so, and cut the staple in two, but the sword also flew into two 
parts. "Place the two parts together," said the lord. Peredur did 
so, and they became one again, both sword and staple. A second 
time this was done with the same result. The third time neither 
sword nor staple would reunite. 

"Thou hast arrived," said the lord, "at two-thirds of thy 
[404] strength." He then declared that he also was 

Peredur's uncle, and brother to the fisher-lord with whom 
Peredur had lodged on the previous night. As they discoursed, 
two youths entered the hall bearing a spear of mighty size, from 
the point of which three streams of blood dropped upon the 
ground, and all the company when they saw this began wailing 
and lamenting with a great outcry, but the lord took no notice and 
did not break off his discourse with Peredur. Next there came 
in two maidens carrying between them a large salver, on which, 
amid a profusion of blood, lay a man's head. Thereupon the 
wailing and lamenting began even more loudly than before. But 
at last they fell silent, and Peredur was led off to his chamber. 
Mindful of the injunction of the fisher-lord, he had shown no 
surprise at what he saw, nor had he asked the meaning of it. He 
then rode forth again in quest of other adventures, which he had 
in bewildering abundance, and which have no particular relation 
to the main theme. The mystery of the castle is not revealed till 
the last pages of the story. The head in the silver dish was that of 
a cousin of Peredur's. The lance was the weapon with which he 
was slain, and with which also the uncle of Peredur, the fisher- 


lord, had been lamed. Peredur had been shown these things to 
incite him to avenge the wrong, and to prove his fitness for the 
task. The "nine sorceresses of Gloucester" are said to have been 
those who worked these evils on the relatives of Peredur. On 
learning these matters Peredur, with the help of Arthur, attacked 
the sorceresses, who were slain every one, and the vengeance 
was accomplished. 

The Conte del Graal 

The tale of Chrestien de Troyes called the "Conte del Graal" or 
"Perceval le Gallois" launched the story in European literature. 
It was written about the year 1180. It agrees in the introductory [405] 
portion with "Peredur," the hero being here called Perceval. 
He is trained in knightly accomplishments by an aged knight 
named Gonemans, who warns him against talking overmuch and 
asking questions. When he comes to the Castle of Wonders the 
objects brought into the hall are a blood-dripping lance, a "graal" 
accompanied by two double-branched candlesticks, the light of 
which is put out by the shining of the graal, a silver plate and 
sword, the last of which is given to Perceval. The bleeding head 
of the Welsh story does not appear, nor are we told what the graal 
was. Next day when Perceval rode forth he met a maiden who 
upbraided him fiercely for not having asked the meaning of what 
he saw — had he done so the lame king (who is here identical 
with the lord of the Castle of Wonders) would have been made 
whole again. Perceval's sin in quitting his mother against her 
wish was the reason why he was withholden from asking the 
question which would have broken the spell. This is a very crude 
piece of invention, for it was manifestly Peredur's destiny to take 
arms and achieve the adventure of the Grail, and he committed 
no sin in doing so. Later on in the story Perceval is met by a 
damsel of hideous appearance, who curses him for his omission 
to ask concerning the lance and the other wonders — had he done 
so the king would have been restored and would have ruled his 
land in peace, but now maidens will be put to shame, knights 

350 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

will be slain, widows and orphans will be made. 

This conception of the question episode seems to me radically 
different from that which was adopted in the Welsh version. It 
is characteristic of Peredur that he always does as he is told 
by proper authority. The question was a test of obedience and 
[406] self-restraint, and he succeeded in the ordeal. In fairy literature 

one is often punished for curiosity, but never for discretion and 
reserve. The Welsh tale here preserves, I think, the original 
form of the story. But the French writers mistook the omission 
to ask questions for a failure on the part of the hero, and 
invented a shallow and incongruous theory of the episode and its 
consequences. Strange to say, however, the French view found 
its way into later versions of the Welsh tale, and such a version 
is that which we have in the "Mabinogion." Peredur, towards 
the end of the story, meets with a hideous damsel, the terrors 
of whose aspect are vividly described, and who rebukes him 
violently for not having asked the meaning of the marvels at the 
castle: "Hadst thou done so the king would have been restored 
to health, and his dominions to peace. Whereas from henceforth 
he will have to endure battles and conflicts, and his knights will 
perish, and wives will be widowed, and maidens will be left 
portionless, and all this is because of thee." I regard this loathly 
damsel as an obvious interpolation in the Welsh tale. She came 
into it straight out of the pages of Chrestien. That she did not 
originally belong to the story of Peredur seems evident from the 
fact that in this tale the lame lord who bids Peredur refrain from 
asking questions is, according to the damsel, the very person 
who would have benefited by his doing so. As a matter of fact, 
Peredur never does ask the question, and it plays no part in the 
conclusion of the story. 

Chrestien's unfinished tale tells us some further adventures of 
Perceval and of his friend and fellow-knight, Gauvain, but never 
explains the significance of the mysterious objects seen at the 
castle. His continuators, of whom Gautier was the first, tell us 


that the Graal was the Cup of the Last Supper and the lance that [407] 
which had pierced the side of Christ at the Crucifixion; and that 
Peredur ultimately makes his way back to the castle, asks the 
necessary question, and succeeds his uncle as lord of the castle 
and guardian of its treasures. 

Wolfram von Eschenbach 

In the story as given by Wolfram von Eschenbach, who wrote 
about the year 1200 — some twenty years later than Chrestien de 
Troyes, with whose work he was acquainted — we meet with a 
new and unique conception of the Grail. He says of the knights 
of the Grail Castle: 

"Si lebent von einem steine 

Des geslahte ist vil reine . . . 

Es heizet lapsit [lapis] exillis, 

Der stein ist ouch genannt der Gral." 244 

It was originally brought down from heaven by a flight of 
angels and deposited in Anjou, as the worthiest region for its 
reception. Its power is sustained by a dove which every Good 
Friday comes from heaven and lays on the Grail a consecrated 
Host. It is preserved in the Castle of Munsalvasche [Montsalvat] 
and guarded by four hundred knights, who are all, except their 
king, vowed to virginity. The king may marry, and is indeed, 
in order to maintain the succession, commanded to do so by the 
Grail, which conveys its messages to mankind by writing which 
appears upon it and which fades away when deciphered. In the 
time of Parzival the king is Anfortas. He cannot die in presence of 
the Grail, but he suffers from a wound which, because he received 
it in the cause of worldly pride and in seeking after illicit love, the [408] 
influence of the Grail cannot heal until the destined deliverer shall 
break the spell. This Parzival should have done by asking the 

244 '"j-^gy are noU n S hed by a stone of most noble nature ... it is called lapsit 
exillis; the stone is also called the Grail." The term lapsit exillis appears to be 
a corruption for lapis ex cells, "the stone from heaven." 

352 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

question, "What aileth thee, uncle?" The French version makes 
Perceval fail in curiosity — Wolfram conceives the failure as one 
in sympathy. He fails, at any rate, and next morning finds the 
castle empty and his horse standing ready for him at the gate; as 
he departs he is mocked by servitors who appear at the windows 
of the towers. After many adventures, which are quite unlike 
those either in Chrestien's "Conte del Graal" or in "Peredur," 
Parzival, who has wedded the maiden Condwiramur, finds his 
way back to the Grail Castle — which no one can reach except 
those destined and chosen to do so by the Grail itself — breaks the 
spell, and rules over the Grail dominions, his son Loherangrain 
becoming the Knight of the Swan, who goes abroad righting 
wrongs, and who, like all the Grail knights, is forbidden to reveal 
his name and origin to the outside world. Wolfram tells us that 
he had the substance of the tale from the Provencal poet Kyot or 
Guiot — "Kyot, der meister wol bekannt" — who in his turn — but 
this probably is a mere piece of romantic invention — professed to 
have found it in an Arabic book in Toledo, written by a heathen 
named Flegetanis. 

The Continuators of Chrestien 

What exactly may have been the material before Chrestien 
de Troyes we cannot tell, but his various co-workers and 
continuators, notably Manessier, all dwell on the Christian 
character of the objects shown to Perceval in the castle, and the 
question arises, How did they come to acquire this character? The 
Welsh story, certainly the most archaic form of the legend, shows 
[409] that they did not have it from the beginning. An indication in one 

of the French continuations to Chrestien's "Conte" may serve 
to put us on the track. Gautier, the author of this continuation, 
tells us of an attempt on the part of Gauvain [Sir Gawain] to 
achieve the adventure of the Grail. He partially succeeds, and this 
half-success has the effect of restoring the lands about the castle, 
which were desert and unfilled, to blooming fertility. The Grail 
therefore, besides its other characters, had a talismanic power in 


promoting increase, wealth, and rejuvenation. 
The Grail a Talisman of Abundance 

The character of a cornucopia, a symbol and agent of 
abundance and vitality, clings closely to the Grail in all versions 
of the legend. Even in the loftiest and most spiritual of these, 
the "Parzival" of Wolfram von Eschenbach, this quality is very 
strongly marked. A sick or wounded man who looked on it 
could not die within the week, nor could its servitors grow old: 
"though one looked on it for two hundred years, his hair would 
never turn grey." The Grail knights lived from it, apparently by 
its turning into all manner of food and drink the bread which was 
presented to it by pages. Each man had of it food according to 
his pleasure, a son gre — from this word gre, greable, the name 
Gral, which originated in the French versions, was supposed to 
be derived. 245 It was the satisfaction of all desires. In Wolfram's 
poem the Grail, though connected with the Eucharist, was, as 
we have seen, a stone, not a cup. It thus appears as a relic of 
ancient stone-worship. It is remarkable that a similar Stone of 
Abundance occurs also in the Welsh "Peredur," though not as 
one of the mysteries of the castle. It was guarded by a black [410] 
serpent, which Peredur slew, and he gave the stone to his friend 

The Celtic Cauldron of Abundance 

Now the reader has by this time become well acquainted with 
an object having the character of a talisman of abundance and 
rejuvenation in Celtic myth. As the Cauldron of the Dagda 
it came into Ireland with the Danaans from their mysterious 
fairy-land. In Welsh legend Bran the Blessed got it from Ireland, 
whither it returned again as part of Branwen's dowry. In a strange 
and mystic poem by Taliesin it is represented as part of the 
spoils of Hades, or Annwn, brought thence by Arthur, in a tragic 
adventure not otherwise recorded. It is described by Taliesin as 

The true derivation is from the Low Latin cratella, a small vessel or chalice. 


354 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

lodged in Caer Pedryvan, the Four-square Castle of Pwyll; the 
fire that heated it was fanned by the breath of nine maidens, its 
edge was rimmed with pearls, and it would not cook the food of 
a coward or man forsworn: 246 

"Am I not a candidate for fame, to be heard in song 
In Caer Pedryvan, four times revolving? 
The first word from the cauldron, when was it spoken? 
By the breath of nine maidens it was gently warmed. 
Is it not the cauldron of the chief of Annwn? What is its 

A rim of pearls is round its edge. 
It will not cook the food of a coward or one forsworn. 
A sword flashing bright will be raised to him, 
And left in the hand of Lleminawg. 

And before the door of the gate of Uffern 247 the lamp was 

When we went with Arthur — a splendid labour — 
Except seven, none returned from Caer Vedwyd. 248 

246 A similar selective action is ascribed to the Grail by Wolfram. It can only 
be lifted by a pure maiden when carried into the hall, and a heathen cannot 
see it or be benefited by it. The same idea is also strongly marked in the story 
narrating the early history of the Grail by Robert de Borron, about 1210: the 
impure and sinful cannot benefit by it. Borron, however, does not touch upon 
the Perceval or "quest" portion of the story at all. 

247 Hades. 

248 Caer Vedwyd means the Castle of Revelry. I follow the version of this 
poem given by Squire in his "Mythology of the British Islands," where it may 
be read in full. 


More remotely still the cauldron represents the Sun, which 
appears in the earliest Aryo-Indian myths as a golden vessel 
which pours forth light and heat and fertility. The lance is 
the lightning-weapon of the Thunder God, Indra, appearing in 
Norse mythology as the hammer of Thor. The quest for these 
objects represents the ideas of the restoration by some divine 
champion of the wholesome order of the seasons, disturbed by 
some temporary derangement such as those which to this day 
bring famine and desolation to India. 

Now in the Welsh "Peredur" we have clearly an outline 
of the original Celtic tale, but the Grail does not appear in 
it. We may conjecture, however, from Gautier's continuation 
of Chrestien's poem that a talisman of abundance figured in 
early Continental, probably Breton, versions of the legend. 
In one version at least — that on which Wolfram based his 
"Parzival" — this talisman was a stone. But usually it would 
have been, not a stone, but a cauldron or vessel of some kind 
endowed with the usual attributes of the magic cauldron of Celtic 
myth. This vessel was associated with a blood-dripping lance. 
Here were the suggestive elements from which some unknown 
singer, in a flash of inspiration, transformed the ancient tale 
of vengeance and redemption into the mystical romance which 
at once took possession of the heart and soul of Christendom. 
The magic cauldron became the cup of the Eucharist, the lance 
was invested with a more tremendous guilt than that of the 
death of Peredur's kinsman. 249 Celtic poetry, German mysticism, [412] 
Christian chivalry, and ideas of magic which still cling to the 
rude stone monuments of Western Europe — all these combined 
to make the story of the Grail, and to endow it with the strange 
attraction which has led to its re-creation by artist after artist for 

249 The combination of objects at the Grail Castle is very significant. They 
were a sword, a spear, and a vessel, or, in some versions, a stone. These are 
the magical treasures brought by the Danaans into Ireland — a sword, a spear, a 
cauldron, and a stone. See pp. 105, 106. 

356 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

seven hundred years. And who, even now, can say that its course 
is run at last, and the towers of Montsalvat dissolved into the 
mist from which they sprang? 

The Tale of Taliesin 

Alone of the tales in the collection called by Lady Charlotte 
Guest the "Mabinogion," the story of the birth and adventures 
of the mythical bard Taliesin, the Amergin of Cymric legend, 
is not found in the fourteenth-century manuscript entitled "The 
Red Book of Hergest." It is taken from a manuscript of the 
late sixteenth or seventeenth century, and never appears to have 
enjoyed much popularity in Wales. Much of the very obscure 
poetry attributed to Taliesin is to be found in it, and this is much 
older than the prose. The object of the tale, indeed, as Mr. Nutt 
has pointed out in his edition of the "Mabinogion," is rather 
to provide a sort of framework for stringing together scattered 
pieces of verse supposed to be the work of Taliesin than to tell a 
connected story about him and his doings. 

The story of the birth of the hero is the most interesting thing 
in the tale. There lived, it was said, "in the time of Arthur of the 
[413] Round Table," 250 a man named Tegid Voel of Penllyn, whose 

wife was named Ceridwen. They have a son named Avagddu, 
who was the most ill-favoured man in the world. To compensate 
for his lack of beauty, his mother resolved to make him a sage. So, 
according to the art of the books of Feryllt, 251 she had recourse 
to the great Celtic source of magical influence — a cauldron. She 
began to boil a "cauldron of inspiration and science for her son, 
that his reception might be honourable because of his knowledge 
of the mysteries of the future state of the world." The cauldron 
might not cease to boil for a year and a day, and only in three 
drops of it were to be found the magical grace of the brew. 

She put Gwion Bach the son of Gwreang of Llanfair to stir the 

250 The Round Table finds no mention in Cymric legend earlier than the 
fifteenth century. 

251 Vergil, in his mediaeval character of magician. 


cauldron, and a blind man named Morda to keep the fire going, 
and she made incantations over it and put in magical herbs from 
time to time as Feryllt's book directed. But one day towards the 
end of the year three drops of the magic liquor flew out of the 
cauldron and lighted on the finger of Gwion. Like Finn mac 
Cumhal on a similar occasion, he put his finger in his mouth, and 
immediately became gifted with supernatural insight. He saw 
that he had got what was intended for Avagddu, and he saw also 
that Ceridwen would destroy him for it if she could. So he fled 
to his own land, and the cauldron, deprived of the sacred drops, 
now contained nothing but poison, the power of which burst the 
vessel, and the liquor ran into a stream hard by and poisoned the 
horses of Gwyddno Garanhir which drank of the water. Whence 
the stream is called the Poison of the Horses of Gwyddno from 
that time forth. 

Ceridwen now came on the scene and saw that her year's 
labour was lost. In her rage she smote Morda with a billet [414] 
of firewood and struck out his eye, and she then pursued after 
Gwion Bach. He saw her and changed himself into a hare. She 
became a greyhound. He leaped into a river and became a fish, 
and she chased him as an otter. He became a bird and she a 
hawk. Then he turned himself into a grain of wheat and dropped 
among the other grains on a threshing-floor, and she became a 
black hen and swallowed him. Nine months afterwards she bore 
him as an infant; and she would have killed him, but could not 
on account of his beauty, "so she wrapped him in a leathern bag, 
and cast him into the sea to the mercy of God." 

The Luck of Elphin 

Now Gwyddno, of the poisoned horses, had a salmon weir on 
the strand between Dyvi and Aberystwyth. And his son Elphin, 
a needy and luckless lad, one day fished out the leathern bag 
as it stuck on the weir. They opened it, and found the infant 

358 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

within. "Behold a radiant brow!" 252 said Gwyddno. "Taliesin be 
he called," said Elphin. And they brought the child home very 
carefully and reared it as their own. And this was Taliesin, prime 
bard of the Cymry; and the first of the poems he made was a lay 
of praise to Elphin and promise of good fortune for the future. 
And this was fulfilled, for Elphin grew in riches and honour day 
after day, and in love and favour with King Arthur. 

But one day as men praised King Arthur and all his belongings 
above measure, Elphin boasted that he had a wife as virtuous as 
any at Arthur's Court and a bard more skilful than any of the 
King's; and they flung him into prison until they should see if 
he could make good his boast. And as he lay there with a silver 
[415] chain about his feet, a graceless fellow named Rhun was sent to 

court the wife of Elphin and to bring back proofs of her folly; 
and it was said that neither maid nor matron with whom Rhun 
conversed but was evil-spoken of. 

Taliesin then bade his mistress conceal herself, and she gave 
her raiment and jewels to one of the kitchenmaids, who received 
Rhun as if she were mistress of the household. And after supper 
Rhun plied the maid with drink, and she became intoxicated and 
fell in a deep sleep; whereupon Rhun cut off one of her fingers, 
on which was the signet-ring of Elphin that he had sent his wife 
a little while before. Rhun brought the finger and the ring on it 
to Arthur's Court. 

Next day Elphin was fetched out of prison and shown the 
finger and the ring. Whereupon he said: "With thy leave, mighty 
king, I cannot deny the ring, but the finger it is on was never my 
wife's. For this is the little finger, and the ring fits tightly on it, 
but my wife could barely keep it on her thumb. And my wife, 
moreover, is wont to pare her nails every Saturday night, but this 
nail hath not been pared for a month. And thirdly, the hand to 
which this finger belonged was kneading rye-dough within three 


days past, but my wife has never kneaded rye-dough since my 
wife she has been." 

Then the King was angry because his test had failed, and he 
ordered Elphin back to prison till he could prove what he had 
affirmed about his bard. 

Taliesin, Prime Bard of Britain 

Then Taliesin went to court, and one high day when the King's 
bards and minstrels should sing and play before him, Taliesin, as 
they passed him sitting quietly in a corner, pouted his lips and [416] 
played "Blerwm, blerwm" with his finger on his mouth. And 
when the bards came to perform before the King, lo ! a spell was 
on them, and they could do nothing but bow before him and play 
"Blerwm, blerwm" with their fingers on their lips. And the chief 
of them, Heinin, said: "O king, we be not drunken with wine, 
but are dumb through the influence of the spirit that sits in yon 
corner under the form of a child." Then Taliesin was brought 
forth, and they asked him who he was and whence he came. And 
he sang as follows: 

"Primary chief bard am I to Elphin, 
And my original country is the region of the summer stars; 
Idno and Heinin called me Merddin, 
At length every being will call me Taliesin. 

"I was with my Lord in the highest sphere, 
On the fall of Lucifer into the depth of hell; 
I have borne a banner before Alexander; 
I know the names of the stars from north to south 

"I was in Canaan when Absalom was slain, 
I was in the court of D5n before the birth of Gwydion. 
I was at the place of the crucifixion of the merciful Son of God; 
I have been three periods in the prison of Arianrod. 


360 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"I have been in Asia with Noah in the ark, 
I have seen the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. 
I have been in India when Roma was built. 
I am now come here to the remnant of Troia. 253 

"I have been with my Lord in the ass's manger, 
I strengthened Moses through the waters of Jordan; 
I have been in the firmament with Mary Magdalene; 
I have obtained the Muse from the cauldron of Ceridwen. 

"I shall be until the day of doom on the face of the earth; 
And it is not known whether my body is flesh or fish. 

"Then was I for nine months 
In the womb of the witch Ceridwen; 
I was originally little Gwion, 
And at length I am Taliesin." 254 

While Taliesin sang a great storm of wind arose, and the castle 
shook with the force of it. Then the King bade Elphin be brought 
in before him, and when he came, at the music of Taliesin's voice 
and harp the chains fell open of themselves and he was free. And 
many other poems concerning secret things of the past and future 
did Taliesin sing before the King and his lords, and he foretold 
the coming of the Saxon into the land, and his oppression of the 
Cymry, and foretold also his passing away when the day of his 
destiny should come. 


Here we end this long survey of the legendary literature of 
the Celt. The material is very abundant, and it is, of course, not 
practicable in a volume of this size to do more than trace the 

253 Alluding to the imaginary Trojan ancestry of the Britons. 

254 I have somewhat abridged this curious poem. The connexion with ideas 
of transmigration, as in the legend of Tuan mac Carell (see pp. 97-101), is 
obvious. Tuan's last stage, it may be recalled, was a fish, and Taliesin was 
taken in a salmon-weir. 


main current of the development of the legendary literature down 
to the time when the mythical and legendary element entirely 
faded out and free literary invention took its place. The reader 
of these pages will, however, it is hoped, have gained a general 
conception of the subject which will enable him to understand 
the significance of such tales as we have not been able to touch 
on here, and to fit them into their proper places in one or other 
of the great cycles of Celtic legend. It will be noticed that 
we have not entered upon the vast region of Celtic folk-lore. [418] 
Folk-lore has not been regarded as falling within the scope of 
the present work. Folk-lore may sometimes represent degraded 
mythology, and sometimes mythology in the making. In either 
case, it is its special characteristic that it belongs to and issues 
from a class whose daily life lies close to the earth, toilers in 
the field and in the forest, who render with simple directness, 
in tales or charms, their impressions of natural or supernatural 
forces with which their own lives are environed. Mythology, in 
the proper sense of the word, appears only where the intellect 
and the imagination have reached a point of development above 
that which is ordinarily possible to the peasant mind — when men 
have begun to co-ordinate their scattered impressions and have 
felt the impulse to shape them into poetic creations embodying 
universal ideas. It is not, of course, pretended that a hard-and-fast 
line can always be drawn between mythology and folk-lore; still, 
the distinction seems to me a valid one, and I have tried to 
observe it in these pages. 

After the two historical chapters with which our study has 
begun, the object of the book has been literary rather than 
scientific. I have, however, endeavoured to give, as the 
opportunity arose, such results of recent critical work on the 
relics of Celtic myth and legend as may at least serve to indicate 
to the reader the nature of the critical problems connected 
therewith. I hope that this may have added somewhat to the 
value of the work for students, while not impairing its interest 

362 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

for the general reader. Furthermore, I may claim that the book 
is in this sense scientific, that as far as possible it avoids any 
adaptation of its material for the popular taste. Such adaptation, 
when done for an avowed artistic purpose, is of course entirely 
legitimate; if it were not, we should have to condemn half the 
[419] great poetry of the world. But here the object has been to present 

the myths and legends of the Celt as they actually are. Crudities 
have not been refined away, things painful or monstrous have 
not been suppressed, except in some few instances, where it has 
been necessary to bear in mind that this volume appeals to a 
wider audience than that of scientific students alone. The reader 
may, I think, rely upon it that he has here a substantially fair and 
not over-idealised account of the Celtic outlook upon life and 
the world at a time when the Celt still had a free, independent, 
natural life, working out his conceptions in the Celtic tongue, 
and taking no more from foreign sources than he could assimilate 
and make his own. The legendary literature thus presented is the 
oldest non-classical literature of Europe. This alone is sufficient, 
I think, to give it a strong claim on our attention. As to what other 
claims it may have, many pages might be filled with quotations 
from the discerning praises given to it by critics not of Celtic 
nationality, from Matthew Arnold downwards. But here let it 
speak for itself. It will tell us, I believe, that, as Maeldun said 
of one of the marvels he met with in his voyage into Fairyland: 
"What we see here was a work of mighty men." 





To render these names accurately without the living voice 
is impossible. But with the phonetic renderings given, where 
required, in the following index, and with attention to the 
following general rules, the reader will get as near to the correct 
pronunciation as it is at all necessary for him to do. 


Vowels are pronounced as in French or German; thus i (long) 
is like ee, e (long) like a in "date," u (long) like oo. A stroke 
over a letter signifies length; thus dun is pronounced "doon" (not 

ch is a guttural, as in the word "loch." It is never pronounced 
with a t sound, as in English "chip." 

c is always like k. 

gh is silent, as in English. 


w, when a consonant, is pronounced as in English; when a 
vowel, like oc. 

y, when long, is like ee; when short, like u in "but." 

ch and c as in Gaelic. 

del is like th in "breathe". 

/is like v;ffiike English/. 

The sound of // is perhaps better not attempted by the English 
reader. It is a thickened /, something between cl and th. 

Vowels as in Gaelic, but note that there are strictly no 
diphthongs in Welsh, in combinations of vowels each is given its 
own sound. 

Abred. The innermost of three concentric circles representing 
the totality of being in the Cymric 
cosmogony — the stage of struggle and evolution, 


Abundance. See Stone of Abundance 

364 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

^Eda (ay 'da). 1. Dwarf of King Fergus mac Leda, 247. 
2. Royal suitor for Vivionn's hand; 
Vivionn slain by, 287 

^Ed'uans. Familiar with plating of copper and tin, 44 

^Egira. Custom of the priestess of Earth at, in Achsea, ere 
prophesying, 167 

jEsun. Umbrian deity, 86 

;Esus. Deity mentioned by Lucan, 86 

Aed the Fair (Aed Finn) (aid). Chief sage of Ireland; 
author of "Voyage of Maeldun," 331 

Aei (ay'ee), Plain of, where Brown Bull of Quelgny meets and 
slays Bull of Ailell, 225 

African Origin. Primitive population of Great Britain and 
Ireland, evidence of language suggests, 78 

Age, Iron. The ship a well-recognised form of sepulchral 
enclosure in cemeteries of the, 76 

Ag'noman. Nemed's father, 98 

Aideen. Wife of Oscar, 261; 

dies of grief after Oscar's death, 261 ; 
buried on Ben Edar (Howth), 261, 262 

Aifa (eefa). Princess of Land of Shadows; 
war made upon, by Skatha, 189; 
[422] Cuchulain overcomes by a trick, 190; 

life spared conditionally by Cuchulain, 190; 
bears a son named Connla, 190 


Ailbach (el-yach) 

Fortress in Co. Donegal, where Ith hears MacCuill and his 

brothers are arranging the division of the land, 


Ailill (el'yill), or Ailell. 

1. Son of Laery, treacherously slain by his uncle Covac, 152. 

2. Brother of Eochy; his desperate love for Etain, 158-160. 

3. King of Connacht, 122; 

Angus Og seeks aid of, 122; 

Fergus seeks aid of, 202; 

assists in foray against province of Ulster, 203-251; 

White horned Bull of, slain by Brown Bull of Quelgny, 

makes seven years' peace with Ulster, 225; 
hound of mac Datho pursues chariot of, 244; 
slain by Conall, 245 

Ailill Edge-of-Battle. 

Of the sept of the Owens of Aran; 

father of Maeldun, slain by reavers from Leix, 310 

Ailill Olum (el-yill olum) 
King of Munster; 
ravishes Aine and is slain by her, 127 


A love-goddess, daughter of the Danaan Owel; 

Ailill Olum and Fitzgerald her lovers, 127; 

mother of Earl Gerald, 128; 

still worshipped on Midsummer Eve, 128; 

appears on a St. John's Night, among girls on the Hill, 128 


Brother of Naisi, 198 

366 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Alexander the Great. 

Counter-move of Hellas against the East under, 22; 
compact with Celts referred to by Ptolemy Soter, 23 

Allen, Mr. Romilly. 
On Celtic art, 29, 30 

Allen, Hill of. 
In Kildare; 
Finn's chief fortress, 266, 273 

Ama'sis I 

Human sacrifices abolished by, 86 

Son of D5n; 
and the ploughing task, 390 


Milesian poet, son of Miled, husband of Skena, 133; 

his strange lay, sung when his foot first touched Irish soil, 

his judgment, delivered as between the Danaans and 

Milesians, 135; 
chants incantations to land of Erin, 136; 
the Druid, gives judgment as to claims to sovranty of Eremon 

andEber, 148; 
Ollav Fola compared with, 150 

Ammia'nus Marcellin'us. 
Gauls described by, 42 

Amor 'gin. 

Father of Conall of the Victories, 177 


Amyn'tas II. 

King of Macedon, defeated and exiled, 23 


Wace's French translation of "Historia Regum Britanise" 
translated by Layamon into, 338 


A Danaan deity, 143. 
See Angus Og 

Angus Og (Angus the Young). 

Son of the Dagda, Irish god of love, 121, 123; 

wooes and wins Caer, 121-123; 

Dermot of the Love spot bred up with, 123; 

Dermot of the Love spot revived by, 123; 

father of Maga, 181; 

Dermot and Grama rescued by magical devices of, 299; 

Dermot's body borne away by, 303 

Ankh, The. 

Found on Megalithic carvings, 77, 78; 
the symbol of vitality or resurrection, 78 

Son of Maga; 

rallies to Maev's foray against Ulster, 204; 
Conall produces the head of, to Ket, 244 

Annwn (annoon). 

Corresponds with Abyss, or Chaos; 

the principle of destruction in Cymric cosmogony, 333 

Answerer, The. 

Mananan's magical sword, 125 


368 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Aoife (eefa). 

Lir's second wife; 

her jealousy of her step children, 139, 140; 

her punishment by B5v the Red, 140 

Aonbarr (ain-barr). 

Mananan's magical steed, 125 

Apollo. Celtic equivalent, Lugh. 

Magical services in honour of, described by Hecataeus, 58; 
regarded by Gauls as deity of medicine, 87, 88 

Aquttan'i. One of three peoples inhabiting Gaul when Caesar's 
conquest began, 58 

Arabia. Dolmens found in, 53 

Arawn. A king in Annwn; 

appeals to Pwyll for help against Havgan, 357; 
exchanges kingdoms for a year with Pwyll, 357-359 

Ard Macha (Armagh). Emain Macha now represented by 

grassy ramparts of a hill-fortress close to, 150; 
significance, 25 1 

Ard Rich (ard ree) (i.e., High King). Dermot MacKerval, of 
Ireland, 47 

Ard an. Brother of Naisi, 198 

Ardcullin. Cuchulain places white round pillar-stone of, 207 

Ardee. Significance, 25 1 


ARrANROD. Sister of Gwydion; 

proposed as virgin foot-holder to Math; 
Dylan and Llew sons of. 380, 381 

Aristotle. Celts and, 17 

Armagh. Invisible dwelling of Lir on Slieve Fuad in County, 


Arnold, Matthew. Reference to, in connexion with Celtic 
legendary literature, 419 

Arr'ian. Celtic characteristics, evidence of, regarding, 36 

Artaius. A god in Celtic mythology who occupies the place of 
Gwydion, 349 

Arthur. Chosen leader against Saxons, whom he finally 
defeated in battle of Mount Badon, 337; 
Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Historia Regum Britaniae" 

commemorates exploits of, 337; 
son of Uther Pendragon and Igerna, 337; 
Modred, his nephew, usurps crown of, 337; 
Guanhumara, wife of, retires to convent, 337, 338; 
genealogy set forth, 352; 
tales of, in Welsh literature, 386; 
Kilhwch at court of, 387, 388; 
the "Dream of Rhonabwy" and, 392, 393; 
Owain, son of Urien, plays chess with, 393; 
adventure of Kymon, knight of court of, 394-396; 
Gwenhwyvar, wife of, 394; 
Owain at court of, 396, 397, 399; 
Peredur at court of, 401, 402 

370 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Arthurian Saga. Mention of early British legend suggests, 336; 
the saga in Brittany and Marie de France, 339, 340; 
Miss Jessie L. Weston's article on, in the "Encyc. Britann.," 

Chrestien de Troyes influential in bringing into the poetic 

literature of Europe the, 340, 341; 
various sources of, discussed, 342; 
the saga in Wales, 343, 344; 
never entered Ireland, 343 ; 
why so little is heard of, in accounts of Cymric myths, 344 

Asa. Scandinavian deity, 86 

Asal. Of the Golden Pillars King, 1 15 

Asura-Masda. Persian deity, 86 

Athnurchar (ath-nur'char), or Ardnurchar (The Ford of the 
Sling-cast). The River-ford where Ket slings 
Conall's "brain ball" at Conor mac Nessa, 240; 
significance, 25 1 

Atlantic, The. Aoife's cruelty to her step-children on waters of, 
140, 141 

Austria. Discovery of pre-Roman necropolis in, 28; 
relics found in, developed into the La Tene culture, 29 

Avagddu (avagdhoo). Son of Tegid Voel, 413; 
deprived of gift of supernatural insight, 413 

A'valon. Land of the Dead; 

bears relation with Norse Valhall, 338; 

its later identification with Glastonbury, 338 


Avon Dia. Duel between Cuchulain and Ferdia causes waters 
of, to hold back, 121 


Babylonia. The ship symbol in, 76 

Balkans. Earliest home of mountain Celts was ranges of, 57 

Balor. Ancestor of Lugh, 88; 
Bres sent to seek aid of, 109; 
informed that Danaans refuse tribute, 113; 
Fomorian champion, engages Nuada of the Silver Hand, and 

slain by Lugh, 117; 
one of the names of the god of Death, 130; 
included in Finn's ancestry, 255 

Banba Wife of Danaan king, MacCuill, 132 

Bann, The River. Visited by mac Cecht, 175 

Barbarossa, Kaiser. Tradition that Finn lies in some enchanted 
cove spellbound, like, 308 

"Barddas." Compilation enshrining Druidic thought, 332; 
Christian persons and episodes figure in, 333; 
extract from, in catechism form, 334, 335 

Bardic differs from popular conception of Danaan deities, 104 

Barrow, The River. Visited by mac Cecht, 175 

Bar'uch. A lord of the Red Branch; meets Naisi and Deirdre on 
landing in Ireland, 199; 
persuades Fergus to feast at his house, 199; 
dun, on the Straits of Moyle, 251 

372 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Bavb (bayv). Calatin's daughter; puts a spell of straying on 
Niam, 230 

Bealcu (bay'al-koo). A Connacht champion; rescue of Conall 
by, 244; 
slain by sons owing to a stratagem of Conall's, 245; 
Conall slays sons of, 245 

Bebo. Wife of Iubdan. King of Wee Folk, 247 

Bed'wyr (bed-weer). Equivalent, Sir Bedivere. One of Arthur's 
servitors who accompanies Kilhwch on his quest 
for Olwen, 388-392 

Belg^. One of three peoples inhabiting Gaul when Caesar's 
conquest began, 58 

Bell Cymric god of Death, husband of D5n; 
corresponds with the Irish Bile, 348, 349; 
Lludd and Llevelys, sons of, 385 

Bell, Mr. Arthur Reference to a drawing by, showing act of 
stone- worship, 66 

Bel'tene. One of the names of the god of Death; 
first of May sacred to, 133 

Ben Bulben. Dermot of the Love-spot slain by the wild boar of, 
Dermot and the Boar of, 290, 291 


Ben'digeid Vran, or "Bran the Blessed." King of the Isle of 
the Mighty (Britain); 
Manawyddan, his brother, 365; 
Branwen, his sister, 366; 
gives Branwen as wife to Matholwch, 366; 
makes atonement for Evnissyen's outrage by giving 

Matholwch the magic cauldron, &c, 367, 368; 
invades Ireland to succour Branwen, 369, 372; 
the wonderful head of, 37 1 , 372 

Bertrand, A. See pp. 55, 64, 83 

Bile (bil-ay). One of the names of the god of Death (i.e., of the 
underworld), 130; 
father of Miled, 130; 
equivalent, Cymric god Beli, husband of D5n, 348, 349 

Birog. A Druidess who assists Kian to be avenged on Balor, 111 

Black Knight, The. Kymon and, 396; 
Owain and, 396-397 

Black Sainglend (sen'glend). Cuchulain's last horse; breaks 
from him, 232 

Blai. OisTn's Danaan mother, 282 

Blanid. Wife of Curoi; sets her love on Cuchulain, 228-229; 
her death, 229 


A Welsh poet identical with Bledhericus, mentioned by 

Giraldus Cambrensis, and with Breris, quoted 
by Thomas of Brittany, 342 


374 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"Blerwm, Blerwm" (bleroom). 

Sound made by Taliesin by which a spell was put on bards at 
Arthur's court, 416 

Blodeuwedd, or "Flower-Face." 
The flower-wife of Llew, 382, 383 

Boanna (the river Boyne). 
Mother of Angus Og, 121 

Book of Armagh. 

References to, 104, 147 

Book of Caermarthen, Black. 

Gwyn ap Nudd figures in poem included in, 353 

Book of the Dun Cow. 
Reference to, 97; 
Cuchulain makes his reappearance legend of Christian origin 

in, 238; 
"Voyage of Maeldun" is found in, 309 

Book of Hergest, The Red. 

Forms main source of tales in the "Mabinogion," 344; 
the story of Taliesin not found in, 412 

Book of Invasions. 
Reference to, 106 

Book of Leinster. 

References to, 24, 85, 208 


Bov the Red. 

King of the Danaans of Munster, brother of the Dagda; 
searches for maiden of Angus Og's dream, 121-123; 
goldsmith of, named Len, 123; 
Aoife's journey to, with her step-children, 139, 140 

Boyne, The River. 

Angus Og's palace at, 121; 

Angus and Caer at, 122; 

Milesians land in estuary of, 136; 

Ethne loses her veil of invisibility while bathing in river, 144; 

church, Kill Ethne, on banks of, 145 


See Bendigeid 


Sister of Bran, 366; 

given in marriage to Matholwch, 366; 

mother of Gwern, 368; 

degraded because of Evnissyen's outrage, 369; 

brought to Britain, 372; 

her death and burial on the banks of the Alaw, 372 

Brea (bray). 

Battle of, reference to Finn's death at, 275 


Locality of, 168; 

the plains of, viewed by Cuchulain, 193; 

St. Patrick and folk of, 282 


Son of Miled, father of Ith, 130; 
tower of, perceived by Ith, 132 

376 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Brenos (Brian). 

Under this form, was the god to whom the Celts attributed 
their victories at the Allia and at Delphi, 126 


1. Ambassador sent to Firbolgs, by People of Dana, 106; 

slain in battle of Moytura, 107. 

2. Son of Danaan woman named Eri, chosen as King of 

Danaan territory in Ireland, 107; 
his ill-government and deposition, 107-108. 

3. Son of Balor; 

learns that the appearance of the sun is the face of Lugh of 
the Long Arm, 123 

Bri Leith (bree lay). 

Fairy palace of Midir the Proud at, in Co. Longford, 124; 
Etain carried to, 163 


One of three sons of Turenn, 114 


Equivalent, Brenos. 
Son of Brigit (Dana), 126 

Briccriu of the Poisoned Tongue (bric'roo). 
Ulster lord; 
causes strife between Cuchulain and Red Branch heroes as to 

Championship of Ireland, 195; 
summons aid of demon named The Terrible, 196; 
his suggestion for carving mac Datho's boar, 243 

Bridge of the Leaps. 
Cuchulain at, 187; 
Cuchulain leaps, 188 



Equivalents, Brigit and "Brigantia," 103 

Brigit (g as in "get"). 

Irish goddess identical with Dana and "Brigindo," &c., 103, [426] 

daughter of the god Dagda, "The Good," 103, 126; 
Ecne, grandson of, 103 


See Great Britain. 

Carthaginian trade with, broken down by the Greeks, 22; 

place-names of, Celtic element in, 27; 

under yoke of Rome, 35; 

magic indigenous in, 62; 

votive inscriptions to iEsus, Teutates, and Taranus found in, 

dead carried from Gaul to, 131; 
Ingcel, son of King of, 169; 
visit of Demetrius to, 355; 
Bran, King of, 365; 

Caradawc rules over in his father's name, 369; 
Caswallan conquers, 372; 
the "Third Fatal Disclosure" in, 373 


Nedimean chief who settled in Great Britain and gave name 
to that country, 102 

British Isles. 

Sole relics of Celtic empire, on its downfall, 34; 
Maev, Grania, Findabair, Deirdre, and Boadicea, women who 
figure in myths of, 43 

378 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 


Geoffrey of Monmouth, like Nennius, affords a fantastic 
origin for the, 338 


Mane-er-H'oeck, remarkable tumulus in, 63; 

tumulus of Locmariaker in, markings on similar to those on 
tumulus at New Grange, Ireland, 72; 

symbol of the feet found in, 77; 

book brought from, by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, 
formed basis of Geoffrey of Monmouth's 
"Historia Regum Britanise," 337; 

Arthurian saga in, 339, 340 


St. Patrick's scribe, 119, 290 

Brown Bull. 
See Quelgny 

Brugh na Boyna (broo-na-boyna). 
Pointed out to Cuchulain, 193 


Footprint of, found in India as symbol, 77; 
the cross-legged, frequent occurrence in religious art of the 
East and Mexico, 87 

Buic (boo Ik). 
Son of Banblai; 
slain by Cuchulain, 211 

Burney's "History of Music." 

Reference to Egyptian legend in, 118 


Bury, Professor. 

Remarks of, regarding the Celtic world, 59 


Daughter of Ethal Anubal; 
wooed by Angus Og, 122, 123; 
her dual life, 122; 
accepts the love of Angus Og, 122 


Arthur's court held at, 337 

C^sar, Julius. 

Critical account of Gauls, 37; 

religious beliefs of Celts recorded by, 51, 52; 

the Belgse, the Celtse, and the Aquitani located by, 58; 

affirmation that doctrine of immortality fostered by Druids to 

promote courage, 81, 82; 
culture superintended by Druids, recorded by, 84; 
gods of Aryan Celts equated with Mercury, Apollo, &c, by, 



Son of Cormac mac Art, father of Light of Beauty, 304; 
refuses tribute to the Fianna, 305; 
Clan Bascna makes war upon, 305-308 

Caliburn (Welsh Caladvwlch) . 
Magic sword of King Arthur, 338. 
See Excalibur, 224, note 

Cambren'sis, Giral'dus. 
Celts and, 21 

380 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 


Version of battle of Gowra, in his "The Fians," 305-307 

Son of Bran; 
rules Britain in his father's absence, 369 


Reputed father of Tuan, 100 


Earliest home of mountain Celts was ranges of the, 57 

[427] Celts conquered Spain from, 21; 

Greeks break monopoly of trade of, with Britain and Spain, 22 

Cas'corach. Son of a minstrel of the Danaan Folk; 
and St. Patrick, 1 19 

Castle of Wonders. Peredur at, 405, 406 

Cas'w allan. Son of Beli; 

conquers Britain during Bran's absence, 372 

Cathbad. Druid; 

wedded to Maga, wife of Ross the Red, 181; 

his spell of divination overheard by Cuchulain, 185; 

draws Deirdre's horoscope, 197; 

casts evil spells over Naisi and Deirdre, 200 

Catholic Church. Mediseal interdicts of, 46 

Cato, M. Porcius. Observances of, regarding Gauls, 37 


Cauldron of Abundance. See equivalent, Stone of Abundance; 
also see Grail 

Celle One of three peoples inhabiting Gaul when Csear's 
conquest began, 58 

Celtchar (kelt-yar). Son of Hornskin; 
under debility curse, 205 

Celtdom. The Golden Age of, in Continental Europe, 21 

Celtic. Power, diffusion of, in Mid-Europe, 26; 
placenames in Europe, 27; 
artwork relics, story told by, 28; 
Germanic words, Celtic element in, 32; 
empire, downfall of, 34; 
weak policy of peoples, 44; 
religion, the, 46, 47; 

High Kings, traditional burial-places of, 69; 
doctrine of immortality, origin of so-called "Celtic," 75, 76; 
ideas of immortality, 78-87; 
deities, names and attributes of, 86-88; 
conception of death, the, 89; 
culture, five factors in ancient, 89, 90; 
the present-day populations, 91, 92; 
cosmogony, the, 94, 95; 
things, "Barddas" a work not unworthy the student of, 333 

Celtica. Never inhabited by a single pure and homogeneous 
race, 18; 
Greek type of civilisation preserved by, 22; 
art of enamelling originated in, 30; 
the Druids formed the sovran power in, 46; 
Brigit (Dana) most widely worshipped goddess in, 126 

382 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Celts. Term first found in Hecatseus; 
equivalent, Hyperboreans, 17; 
Herodotus and dwelling-place of, 17; 
Aristotle and, 17; 
Hellanicus of Lesbos and, 17; 
Ephorus and, 17; 
Plato and, 17; 

their attack on Rome, a landmark of ancient history, 18; 
described by Dr. T. Rice Holmes, 18, 19; 
dominion of, over Mid-Europe, Gaul, Spain, and the British 

Isles, 20; 
their place among these races, 20; 
Giraldus Cambrensis and, 21; 
Spain conquered from the Carthaginians by, 21; 
Northern Italy conquered from the Etruscans by, 21; 
Vergil and, 21; 
conquer the Illyrians, 21; 
alliance with the Greeks, 22; 
conquests of, in valleys of Danube and Po, 23; 
Alexander makes compact with, 23; 
national oath of, 24; 
welded into unity by Ambicatus, 25; 
defeat Romans, 26; 
Germanic peoples and, 26, 33; 
decorative motives derived from Greek art, 29; 
art of enamelling learnt by classical nations from, 30; 
burial rites practised by, 33; 
character, elements comprising, 36; 
Strabo's description of, 39; 
love of splendour and methods of warfare, 40; 
Polybius' description of warriors in battle of Clastidium, 41; 
their influence on European literature and philosophy, 49, 50; 
the Religion of the, 51-93; 


ranges of the Balkans and Carpathians earliest home of 

mountain, 57; 
musical services of, described by Hecatseus, 58; [428] 

Switzerland, Burgundy, the Palatinate, Northern France, parts 

of Britain, &c, occupied by mountain, 58; 
origin of doctrine of immortality, 75; 
idea of immortality and doctrine of transmigration, 80, 81; 
the present-day, 91, 92; 

no non-Christian conception of origin of things, 94; 
victories at the Alba and at Delphi attributed to Brenos 

(Brian), 126; 
true worship of, paid to elemental forces represented by 

actual natural phenomena, 147 


Otherwise The Footless; 

related to Vitra, the God of Evil in Vedantic mythology, 97 


WifeofTegid, 413; 

sets Gwion Bach and Morda to attend to the magic cauldron, 


Ceugant (Infinity). 

The outermost of three concentric circles representing the 
totality of being in the Cymric cosmogony, 
inhabited by God alone, 334 

Chaillu, Du. 

His "Viking Age," 72 

Champion of Ireland. 

Test at feast of Briccriu, to decide who is the, 195, 196; 
Cuchulain proclaimed such by demon The Terrible, 196 

384 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 


Tree- and stone-worship denounced by, 66 

Children of Lir. 
Reference to, 121 

Chrestien de Troyes. 

French poet, influential in bringing the Arthurian saga into 

the poetic literature of Europe, 340, 341; 
Gautier de Denain the earliest continuator of, 341; 
variation of his "Le Chevalier au lion" seen in "The Lady of 

the Fountain," 394-399; 
the "Tale of Enid and Geraint" based on "Erec" of, 399; 
Peredur corresponds to the Perceval of, 400; 
his "Conte del Graal," or "Perceval le Gallois," 303; 
Manessier a continuator of, 408 


Symbolism, the hand as emblem of power in, 65; 

faith, heard of by King Cormac ere preached in Ireland by St. 

Patrick, 69; 
influences in Ireland, and the Milesian myth, 138; 
ideas, gathered around Cuchulain and his lord King Conor of 

Ulster, 239, 240; 
pagan ideals contrasted with, in OisTn dialogues, 288; 
Myrddin dwindles under influences, 354 


Reference to conversion of Ireland to, 83; 

People of Dana in their overthrow, and attitude of, 138; 

Cuchulain summoned from Hell by St. Patrick to prove truths 

of, to High King Laery, 239; 
effect of on Irish literature, 295, 296 


Chry'sostom, Dion. 

Testimony of, to power of the Druids, 83 

Clan Bascna. 

One of the divisions of the Fianna of Erin, 252; 

Cumhal, father of Finn, chief of, 255; 

Cairbry causes feud between Clan Morna and, 305-308 

Clan Calatin. 

Sent by men of Erin against Cuchulain, 215; 

Fiacha, son of Firaba, cuts off the eight- and-twenty hands of, 

Cuchulain slays, 216; 
the widow of, gives birth to six children whom Maev has 

instructed in magic and then looses against 

Cuchulain, 228-233; 
cause Cuchulain to break his geise, 231 

Clan Morna. 

One of the divisions of the Fianna of Erin, 252; 

Lia becomes treasurer to, 255; 

Cairbry causes feud between Clan Bascna and, 305-308 


Battle of, Polybius' description of behaviour of the Gsesati in, 



A Danaan maiden once living in Mananan's country, the story 

of, 127 


Siege of, Romans play Celts false at, 25; 
vengeance exacted by Celts, 26 


386 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Coffey, George. 

His work on the New Grange tumulus, 69 

Colloquy of the Ancients. 

A collection of tales mentioning St Patrick and Cascorach, 

interest of, 284-308 

Columba, St. 

Symbol of the feet and, 77 

Comyn, Michael 

Reference to "Lay of OisTn in the Land of Youth," by, 253, 


Member of Conary's retinue at Red Hostel, 173; 

Amorgin, his father, found by him at Teltin, 176, 177; 

shrinks from test re the Championship of Ireland, 195, 196; 

under the Debility curse, 205 ; 

avenges Cuchulain's death by slaying Lewy, 233; 

his "brain ball" causes death of Conor mac Nessa, 240, 241; 

mac Datho's boar and, 243, 244; 

slays Ket, 244 


Son of Lia, lord of Luachar; 

Finn makes a covenant with, 258, 259 

Conan mac Morna; otherwise the Bald. 
His adventure with the Fairy Folk, 259, 260; 
he slays Liagan, 260; 
adventure with the Gilla Dacar's steed, 293-295 



Fomorian king, 101 

Con'ary Mor. 

The singing sword of, 121; 

the legend-cycle of the High King, 155-177; 

descended from Etain Oig, daughter of Etain, 164; 

Messbuachalla, his mother, 166, 167; 

Desa, his foster-father, 167; 

Ferlee, Fergar, and Ferrogan, his foster-brothers, 167; 

Nemglan commands him go to Tara, 168; 

proclaimed King of Erin, 168; 

Nemglan declares his geise, 168; 

banishment of his foster-brothers, 169; 

lured into breaking his geise, 170; 

the three Reds and, at Da Derga's Hostel, 170; 

visited by the Morrigan at Da Derga's Hostel, 172; 

members of his retinue: Cormac son of Conor, warrior mac 
Cecht, Conary's three sons, Conall of the 
Victories, Duftach of Ulster, 173; 

perishes of thirst, 175 


A maiden wedded by Parzival, 408 


One of the Children of Lir, 142 

388 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 


Ethal Anubal, prince of the Danaans of, 122; 

Ailell and Maev, mortal King and Queen of, Angus Og seeks 

their help in efforts to win Caer, 122; 
origin of name, 154; 

Cuchulain makes a foray upon, 193, 194; 
Cuchulain descends upon host of, under Maev, 209; 
Ket a champion, 241; 
Queen Maev reigned in, for eighty-eight years, 245 


Son of Cuchulain and Aifa, 190; 

his geise, 190; 

Aifa sends him to Erin, 190; 

his encounters with the men of Ulster, 191; 

slain by Cuchulain, 191, 192 

Connla's Well. 

Equivalent, Well of Knowledge. 
Sinend's fatal visit to, 129 

Conor mac Nessa. 

Son of Fachtna and Nessa, proclaimed King of Ulster in 

preference to Fergus, 180; 
Cuchulain brought up at court of, 183; 
grants arms of manhood to Cuchulain, 185; 
while at a feast on Strand of the Footprints he descries 

Connla, 190; 
his ruse to put Cuchulain under restraint, 194; 
Deirdre and, 195-200; 
his guards seize Naisi and Deirdre, 201; 
suffers pangs of the Debility curse, 205-221; 
the curse lifted from, 222; 
summons Ulster to arms, 222; 
Christian ideas have gathered about end of, 239, 240; 


his death caused by Conall's "brain ball," 240, 241; 

he figures in tale entitled "The Carving of mac Datho's Boar," [430] 

sends to mac Datho for his hound, 241 

Constantine. Arthur confers his kingdom on, 338 

"Conte del Graal." See Grail 

Coran'ians. A demoniac race called, harass land of Britain, 385 

Corcady'na. Landing of Ith and his ninety warriors at, in 
Ireland, 131-136 

Cormac. 1. Son of Art, King of Ireland; 
story of burial of, 69; 
historical character, 225; 
Finn and, feasted at Rath Grania, 300. 

2. King of Ulster; 
marries Etain Oig, 166; 

puts her away owing to her barrenness, 166. 

3. Son of Conor mac Nessa; 

rallies to Maev's foray against Ulster, 205 

Coronation Stone. Now at Westminster Abbey, is the famous 
Stone of Scone, 105; 
the Lia Fail and, 105 

Corpre. Poet at court of King Bres, 108 

Cosmonogy, 1. The Celtic, 94, 95. 
2. The Cymric, 332-335; 
God and Cythrawl, standing for life and destruction, in, 333 

Cotterill, H. B. Quotation from his hexameter version of the 
"Odyssey," 80 

390 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Craf'tiny. King Scoriath's harper; 

sings Moriath's love-lay before Maon, 153; 
discovers Maon's secret deformity, 155 

Cred'ne. The artificer of the Danaans, 117 

Creu'dylad (Creiddylad). 

Daughter of Lludd; combat for possession of, every May-day, 
between Gwythur ap Greidawl and Gwyn ap 
Nudd, 353, 388 

Crimmal. Rescued by his nephew, Finn, 256 

Crom Cruach (crom croo'ach). 

Gold idol (equivalent, the Bloody Crescent) referred to in 

"Book of Leinster," 85; 
worship introduced by King Tiernmas, 149 

Cromlechs. See Dolmens, 53 

Crundchu (crun'hoo). Son of Agnoman; 
Macha comes to dwell with, 178 

Cualgne. See Quelgny 


Cuchulain (Cuchullin) (coo-hoolin). Ulster hero in Irish saga, 
duel with Ferdia referred to, 121; 
Lugh, the father of, by Dectera, 123, 182; 
loved and befriended by goddess Morrigan, 126; 
his strange birth, 182; 
earliest name Setanta, 183; 
his inheritance, 183; 

his name derived from the hound of Cullan, 183, 184; 
claims arms of manhood from Conor, 185; 
wooes Emer, 185, 186; 
Laeg, charioteer of, 185; 
Skatha instructs, in Land of Shadows, 187-189; 
overcomes Aifa, 190; 
father of Connla by Aifa, 190; 
slays Connla, 191, 192; 
returns to Erin, 193-194; 
slays Foill and his brothers, 194; 
met by women of Emania, 194; 
leaps "the hero's salmon leap," 195; 
the winning of Emer, 195; 
proclaimed by The Terrible the Champion of Ireland, 195, 

places Maev's host under geise, 207, 208; 
slays Orlam, 209; 

the battle-frenzy and rias-tradh of, 209, 210; 
compact with Fergus, 211; 
the Morrigan offers love to, 212; 
threatens to be about his feet in bottom of Ford, 212; 
attacked by the Morrigan while engaged with Loch, 213; 
slays Loch, 213; 

Ferdia consents to go out against, 216; 
Ferdia reproached by, 216, 217; 
their struggle, 217-221; 

392 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

slays Ferdia, 220; 

severely wounded by Ferdia, 220, 221; 
roused from stupor by sword-play of Fergus, 224; 
rushes into the battle of Garach, 224; 
in Fairyland, 225-228; 
loved by Fand, 226; 
[431] the vengeance of Maev upon, 228-233; 

other enemies of Ere, and Lewy son of Curoi, 228; 

Blanid, Curoi's wife, sets her love on, 228; 

his madness, 229-231; 

Bave personates Niam before, 230; 

the Morrigan croaks of war before, 230; 

Dectera and Cathbad urge him wait for Conall of the 

Victories ere setting forth to battle, 230; 
the Washer at the Ford seen by, 23 1 ; 
Clan Calatin cause him to break his geise, 23 1 ; 
finds his foes at Slieve Fuad, 232; 
the Grey of Macha being mortally wounded, he takes farewell 

of, 232; 
mortally wounded by Lewy, 232; 

his remaining horse, Black Sainglend, breaks away from, 232; 
Lewy slays outright, 233; 

his death avenged by Conall of the Victories, 233; 
reappears in later legend of Christian origin found in "Book 

of the Dun Cow," 238, 239; 
St. Patrick's summons from Hell, 238 

Cullan. His feast to King Conor in Quelgny, 183; 
Cuchulain slays his hound, 183; 
Cuchulain named the Hound of, 184; 
his daughter declared responsible for Finn's enchantment, 280 


Cumhal (coo'al). Chief of the Clan Morna, son of Trenmdr, 

husband of Murna of the White Neck, the father 
of Finn, 255, 257; 
slain at battle of Knock, 255 

Cup-and-ring Markings. Meaning of, in connexion with 
Megalithic monuments, no light on, 67; 
example in Dupaix' "Monuments of New Spain," 68; 
reproduction in Lord Kingsborough's "Antiquities of 
Mexico," 68 

Cup of the Last Supper Identical with the Grail, 406; 
equivalent, the Magic Cauldron, 411 

Curoi (coo'roi). Father of Lewy, husband of Blanid, 228; 
slain by Cuchulain, 229 

Cuscrid. Son of Conor mac Nessa; 
under Debility curse, 205 ; 
mac Datho's boar and, 243 

Custenn'in. Brother of Yspaddaden; 

assists Kilhwch in his quest for Olwen, 389 

Cycle-s. The, of Irish legend, 95; 
the Mythological, 95-145; 
theUltonian, 178-251; 
Ossianic, 241-245; 

certain stories of Ultonian, not centred on Cuchulain, 246; 
the Ultonian, time of events of the, 252; 
the Ossianic and Ultonian contrasted, 253-255 

394 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Cymric. 1. Peoples; 

effect of legends of, on Continental poets, 50; 

2. Myths; 

Druidic thought enshrined in Llewellyn Sion's "Barddas," 

edited by by J. A. Williams ap Ithel for the 

Welsh MS. Society, 332; 
cosmogony, the, 333-335; 
God and Cythrawl in, 333; 
why so little of Arthurian saga heard in, 344; 
comparison between Gaelic and, 344-368 

Cythrawl. God and, two primary existences standing for 
principles of destruction and life, in Cymric 
cosmogony, 333; 
realised in "Annwn" (the Abyss, or Chaos), 333 


Da Derga. A Leinster lord at whose hostel Conary seeks 
hospitality, 170; 
Conary 's retinue at, 173; 
Ingcel and his own sons attack the hostel, 174 

Dagda. "The Good," or possibly = Doctus, "The Wise" God, 
and supreme head of the People of Dana, father 
of Brigit (Dana), 103; 
the Cauldron of the, one of the treasures of the Danaans, 106; 
[432] the magical harp of, 118-119; 

father and chief of the People of Dana, 120, 121 ; 

Kings MacCuill, MacCecht, and MacGrene grandsons of, 

portions out spiritual Ireland between the Danaans, 136 

Dalan. A Druid who discovers to Eochy that Etain has been 
carried to mound of Bri-Leith, 163 

Dalny. Queen of Partholan, 96 

Daman. The Firbolg, father of Ferdia, 1 87 

Damayan'ti and Nala. Hindu legend, compared with story of 
Etain, 163 

Dana. The People of, Nemedian survivors who return to 
Ireland, 102; 
literal meaning of Tuatha De Danann, 103; 
equivalent Brigit, 103, 126; 
name of "gods" given to the People of, by Tuan mac Carell, 

Milesians conquer the People of, 104; 
origin of People of, according to Tuan mac Carell, 105; 
cities of Falias, Gorias, Finias, and Murias, 105; 
treasures of the People of, 105, 106; 
the Firbolgs and the People of, 106-119; 
gift of Faery {i.e., skill in music) the prerogative of, 1 19; 
daughter of the Dagda and the greatest of Danaan goddesses, 

Brian (ancient form Brenos), Iuchar, and Iucharba, her sons, 

Firbolgs and the People of, 137; 
equivalent D5n, Cymric mother-goddess, 348, 349 

396 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Dan'aan-s. Send to Balor refusing tribute, 113; 
their encounter with the Fomorians, 1 17; 
power of, exercised by spell of music, 118; 
account of principal gods and attributes of, 119-145; 
reference to their displacement in Ireland by Milesians, 130; 
kings, Ireland ruled by three, MacCuill, MacCecht, and 

MacGrene, 132; 
the three kings welcome Ith to Ireland, 133; 
dwell in spiritual Ireland, 136; 
myth, the meaning of, 137; 
the, after the Milesian conquest, 146, 147; 
Donn son of Midir at war with, 285; 
relations of the Church with, very cordial, 286 

Danes. Irish monuments plundered by Danes, 69 

Danube. Sources of, place of origin of Celts, 19, 56 

Dara. Son of Fachtna, owner of Brown Bull of Quelgny, 202; 
Maev's request for loan of Brown Bull, 204 

Dark, The. Druid; 

changes Saba into a fawn, 267; 
his further ill-treatment of, 268, 269 

Dead, Land of. The Irish Fairyland, 96; 
equivalent, "Spain," 102 

Death. The Celtic conception of, 89; 

names of Balor and Bile occur as god of, 130 

Debility of the Ultonians, The. Caused by Macha's curse, 
179, 180; 
manifested on occasion of Maev's famous cattle-raid of 
Quelgny {Tain Bo Cuailgne), 180 


Decies. Son of King of the, wooes Light of Beauty (Sgeimh 
Solais), 304 

Dec'tera. Mother of Cuchulain by Lugh, 123; 
daughter of Druid Cathbad, 182; 
her appearance to Conor mac Nessa after three years' 

absence, 182; 
her gift of a son to Ulster, Cuchulain, by Lugh, 182 

Dee, The River. Now the Ford of Ferdia, 211 

Deirdre (deer 'dree). Daughter of Felim, 196; 
Druid Cathbad draws her horoscope, 197; 
Conor decides to wed when of age, 197; 
nursed by Levarcam, 197; 
her love for Naisi, 198; 
carried off by Naisi, 198; 
returns with Naisi to Ireland, 198-200; 
forced to wed Conor, she dashes herself against a rock and is 

killed, 201; 
the tales of Grania and, compared, 296-304 


Deities. The Celtic, Caesar on, 87, 88; 

popular and bardic conception of Danaan, 104 

Demetrius. Visit to Britain of, 355; 

mentions island where "Kronos" was imprisoned in sleep 
while Briareus kept watch over him, 355 

Demna. Otherwise Finn. 
Birth of, 255 

Deo'ca. A princess of Munster; 
Children of Lir and, 142 

398 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Dermot MacKerval. Rule of, in Ireland, and the cursing of 
Tara, 47, 48; 
arrests and tries Hugh Guairy, 48; 
dream of wife of, 48 

Dermot of the Love Spot (Dermot O'Dyna). Follower of Finn 
mac Cumhal, lover of Grania, bred up with 
Angus at palace on Boyne, 123; 

the typical lover of Irish legend, 123; 

slain by wild Boar of Ben Bulben, 123, 301, 302; 

friend of Finn's, 261 ; 

described as a Gaelic Adonis, 290; 

Donn, father of, 290; 

Roc and, 290, 291; 

how Dermot got the Love Spot, 292; 

adventure with Gilla Dacar's steed, 293-295; 

fight with the Knight of the Well, 294; 

love-story of Grania and, 296-304 

Derryvar'agh, Lake. Aoife's cruelty to her step-children at, 


Desa. Foster-father of Conary Mor, 167 

Dewy-Red. Horse of Conall of the Victories, 233 

Dialogues. Reference to Oism-and-Patrick and 
Keelta-and-Patrick, 289 

Diancecht (dee'an-kecht). Physician to the Danaans, 108 

Dineen's Irish Dictionary. Reference to, 164, 165 

Dinnsenchus (din-shen'cus). Ancient tract, preserved in the 
"Book of Leinster," 85 


Din'odig. Cantrev of, over which Llew and Blodeuwedd 
reigned, 382, 383 

Dinrigh (din'ree). Maon slays Covac at, 153 

Diodor'us Sic'ulus. A contemporary of Julius Csesar; 
describes Gauls, 41, 42; 
Pythagoras and, 80 

Dis. Pluto, equivalent, 88 

Dithor'ba. Brother of Red Hugh and Kimbay, slain by Macha, 
five sons of, taken captive by Macha, 151, 152 

Diur'an the Rhymer. German and, companions of Maeldun on 
his wonderful voyage, 313; 
returns with piece of silver net, 33 1 

Dodder, The River, 175 

Dolmens Cromlechs, tumuli and, explanation of, 53 

Don (o as in "bone"). 

A Cymric mother-goddess, representing the Gaelic Dana, 

348, 349; 
Penardun, a daughter of 349; 
Gwydion, son of, 349; 
genealogy set forth, 350 

Donn. 1. Mac Midir, son of Midir the Proud, 285. 
2. Father of Dermot; 
gives his son to be nurtured by Angus Og, 290 

Donnybrook. Da Derga's hostel at, 170 

400 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Doocloone. Ailill slain in church of, 310; 
Maeldunat, 311 

Dowth. Tumulus of, 74 

Druidism. Its existence in British Isles, Gaul, &c, 82; 

magical rites of, belief in survived in early Irish Christianity, 

Druids. Doctrines of, 37, 39; 

regarded as intermediaries between God and man, 42; 

the sovran power in Celtica, 46; 

suppressed by Emperor Tiberius, 62; 

Aryan root for the word discovered, 82; 

testimony of Dion Chrysostom to the power of the, 83; 

religious, philosophic and scientific culture superintended by, 

record of Caesar regarding, 84; 
cosmogonic teaching died with their order, 95 

[434] Dublin. Conary goes toward, 167; 

Conary's foster brothers land at, for raiding purposes, 169 

Dupaix. Reference to cup-and-ring markings in book 
"Monuments of New Spain," 68 

Dyfed. Pryderi and Manawyddan at, 374; 
Gwydion and Gilvaethwy at, 379 

Dylan ("Son of the Wave"). Son of Arianrod; 

his death-groan the roar of the tide at mouth of the river 
Conway, 380 

Eagle of Gwern Abwy, The, 392 


Eber Donn (Brown Eber). Milesian lord; 
his brutal exultation and its sequel, 136; 
reference to, as one of Milesian leaders, 148 

Eber Finn (Fair Eber). One of the Milesian leaders, 148; 
slain by Eremon, 148 

Ecne (ec'nay). The god whose grandmother was Dana, 103 

Egypt-ian. The ship symbol in the sepulchral art of, 75; 
Feet of Osiris, symbol of visitation, in, 77; 
ideas of immortality, 78-87; 
human sacrifices in, abolished by Amasis I., 86 

Eis'irt. Bard to King of Wee Folk, 247; 
his visit to King Fergus in Ulster, 247 

Elphin. Son of Gwyddno; 
finds Taliesin, 414; 

his boast of wife and bard at Arthur's court, 415; 
the sequel, 415-417 

Em'ain Mach'a. The Morrigan passes through, to warn 
Cuchulain, 127; 
founding of, with reign of Kimbay, 150; 
equivalent, the Brooch of Macha, 150; 
Macha compels five sons of Dithorba to construct ramparts 

and trenches of, 151, 152; 
appearance of Dectera in fields of, 182; 
Cuchulain drives back to, 186; 
news of Cuchulain's battle-fury brought to, 194; 
Fergus returns to, 201; 

boy corps at, go forth to help Cuchulain, 214; 
Ulster men return to, with great glory, 225; 
Conall's "brain ball" laid up at, 240 

402 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Ema'nia. Women of, meet Cuchulain, 194; 

sacrifice of boy corps of, avenged by Cuchulain, 214; 
Cuchulain takes farewell of womenfolk of, 231. 
See Emain Macha 

Emer. Daughter of Forgall; 
wooed by Cuchulain, 185-186; 
Cuchulain seeks and carries off, 195; 
becomes Cuchulain's wife, 195; 

learns of the tryst between Cuchulain and Fand, 226, 228; 
Cuchulain sees her corpse in his madness, 230 

Enamelling. Celts and art of, 30 

Encyclopedia Britannica. Article on Arthurian saga in, 341 

Enid. The tale of Geraint and, 399, 400 

Eochy (yeo'hee). 1. Son of Ere, Firbolg king, husband of Taltiu, 
orTelta, 103. 
2. King of Ireland; 
reference to appearance of Midir the Proud to, on the Hill of 

Tar a, 124; 
High King of Ireland, wooes and marries Etain, 157, 158; 
Midir appears to, and challenges to play chess, 161, 162 

Eph'orus. Celts and, 17, 36 

Erc. King of Ireland, Cuchulain's foe, 228-233; 
mortally wounds the Grey of Macha, 232 

Er'emon. First Milesian king of all Ireland, 143, 144, 148 

Eri. Mother of King Bres, 107-108; 
reveals father of Bres as Elatha, 108 


Erinn (Erin). See Eriu, 132; 

reference to High-Kingship of, 152 

Eriu. Wife of Danaan king MacGrene, 132; 

dative form, Erinn, poetic name applied to Ireland, 132 

Erris Bay. The Children of Lir at, 141, 142 



Second bride of Midir the Proud, 156; 

transformed by Fuamnach into a butterfly, 156; 

driven by a magic tempest into the fairy palace of Angus, 156; 

again the magic tempest drives her forth, 156; 

swallowed by Etar, and reappears as a mortal child, 156, 157; 

visited by Eochy, the High King, who wooes and makes her 

his wife, 157, 158; 
the desperate love of Ailill for, 158-160; 
Midir the Proud comes to claim, as his Danaan wife, 160-163; 
recovered by Eochy, 163 

Etain Oig. 

Daughter of Etain, 163; 

King Conary Mor descended from, 164; 

married Cormac, King of Ulster, 165; 

put away owing to barrenness, 166; 

cowherd of Eterskel cares for her one daughter, 166 


Mother of Etain, 157 


King of Ireland, whose cowherd cares for Messbuachalla, 

on his death he is succeeded by Conary M5r, 167-169 

404 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Eth'al A'nubal. 

Prince of Danaans of Connacht, father of Caer, 122 

Ethlinn, or Ethnea. 
Daughter of Balor, 110; 
gives her love to Kian, 111; 
gives birth to three sons, 111; 
one son, Lugh, 112, 182; 
belongs to Finn's ancestry, 255 


The tale of, 142-145 


Celts conquer Northern Italy from, 21 


Seeds of freedom and culture in, kept alive by Celtica, 22; 

diffusion of Celtic power in Mid-, 26; 

Celtic place-names in, 27; 

what it owes to Celts, 49; 

western lands of, dolmens found in, 53 


Son of Eurosswyd and Penardun, 366; 
mutilates horses of Matholwch, 367; 
atonement made by Bran for his outrage, 367, 368; 
slays the warriors hidden in the meal-bags, 370; 
dies in the magic cauldron, 371 


Father of Peredur, 401 


Farmer who befriends Fionuala and her brothers, 141 



See Caliburn, 338, and note, p. 224 


Romans elect as military tribunes, 25 

Fab'ius Ambust'us. 

Treachery of three sons of, against Celts, 25 


The giant, King of Ulster, 180; 

Nessa, wife of, 180; 

father of Conor, 180; 

succeeded at death by his half brother, Fergus, 180 

Fair Mane. 

Woman who nurtured many of the Fianna, 262 

Fairy Folk. 

Equivalent, Sidhe (shee). The tumulus at New Grange 

(Ireland) regarded as dwelling-place of, 69; 
the Coulin overheard from, 119; 
Conary M5r lured by, into breaking his geise, 170; 
seal all sources of water against mac Cecht, 175, 176; 
Fergus mac Leda and, 246-249; 
Conan mac Morna and, 259, 260; 
Keelta and the, 266; 
Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Welsh (Tylwyth Teg), 353 


406 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 


Land of the Dead, 96; 

Cleena swept back to, by a wave, 127; 

Connla's Well in, 129; 

war carried on against, by Eochy, who at last recovers his 

wife, Etain, 163; 
Cuchulain in, 225-228; 
Laeg's visit to, 226; 
Fergus mac Leda and, 246-249; 
tales of the Fianna concerned with, 252; 
OisTn's journey to, 272; 

the rescue of, by Finn and the Fianna, 294, 295; 
rescue of, by Pwyll, 357 

Fai/ias, The City of (see Dana), 105, 106 


The Pearl of Beauty, wife of Mananan; 
sets her love on Cuchulain, 226; 
returns to her home with Mananan, 227 


The Land of the Wee Folk, 246; 
Iubdan, King of, 246 


Prophetess from Fairy Mound of Croghan, questioned by 

Maev, 205, 206; 
her vision of Cuchulain, 206 

Feet Symbol, The Two. 77 


Son of Dall, father of Deirdre, 196, 197; 

his feast to Conor and Red Branch heroes, 196, 197 



The kingdom of, over which Scoriath is king; 
Maon taken to, 153 


ThebardofCuroi, 229; 

leaps with Blanid to death, 229 


Duel between Cuchulain and, referred to, 121; 

son of the Firbolg, Daman, friend of Cuchulain, 187, 188; 

rallies to Maev's foray against Ulster, 204; 

consents to Maev's entreaty that he should meet and fight his 

friend Cuchulain, 216; 
the struggle, 217-221; 
Cuchulain slays, 220; 
buried by Maev, 221 


Nemedian chief who slays Conann, 102 

Fergus the Great. 
Son of Ere; 

stone of Scone used for crowning, 105; 
ancestor of British Royal Family, 105 

Fergus mac Leda. 

The Wee Folk and, 246-249; 
visited by Eisirt, King of Wee Folk's bard, 247; 
visited by Iubdan, King of Wee Folk, 247-249; 
the blemish of Fergus, 249 

408 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Fergus mac Roy. 

Son of Roy, Fachtna's half-brother; 

succeeds to kingship of Ulster, 180; 

loves Nessa, 180; 

sent to invite return of Naisi and Deirdre to Ireland, 198-200; 

the rebellion of, 201-251; 

Maev and, 202; 

compact with Cuchulain, 211; 

reputed author of the "Tain," 234; 

slain by Ailell, 245 

Fergus Truelips. 

Rescued from enchanted cave by Goll, 278 

Ferguson, Sir Samuel. 
Quoted, 46, 234-238; 
his description of King Fergus mac Leda's death, 249-25 1 


Welsh name of Vergil, 413 

Fiacha (fee'ach-a). 
Son of Firaba; 

cuts off eight-and-twenty hands of the Clan Calatin, 216; 
gives spear to Finn, 258 

Fiachra (fee'ach-ra). 

One of the Children of Lir, 142 

Fial (fee'al). 

Sister of Emer, 1 86 


Fianna (fee 'anna) of Erin, The. 
Explanation of this Order, 252; 

Clan Bascna and Clan Morna, clans comprising the, 252; 
Goll, captain of the, 257; 
Finn made captain of the, 258; 
tests of, 264, 265; 
tales of the, told by Keelta, 283; 
attempt in vain to throw the wether, 291, 292; 
the chase of the Hard Gilly and, 292-295; 
rescue of Fairyland by, 294, 295; 
tribute refused by Cairbry, 305; 
almost all the, slain in battle of Gowra, 306 


See Fianna 


Dectera's sister, foster-mother to Cuchulain, 182, 183; 
mother of Conall, 243 

Finchor'y, Island of. 115, 116 

Find 'ab air of the Fair Eye-Brows. 
Daughter of Maev; 
offered to Ferdia if he will meet and fight Cuchulain, 216 

Fin 'egas. 

Druid, of whom Finn learns poetry and science, 256 


Conor mac Nessa's physician; 

his pronouncement re Conall's "brain ball" by which Ket has 
wounded the king, 240 

Fin'ias. The City of (see Dana), 105, 106 

410 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Finn mac Cumhal (fin mac coo'al). Fothad slain in a battle 
with, 81; 
Dermot of the Love Spot a follower of, 123; 
Ossianic Cycle clusters round, 252; 
OisTn, son of, 252; 
the coming of, 255 ; 
his Danaan ancestry, 255; 

Murna of the White Neck his mother, Cumhal his father, 255 ; 
Demna his original name, 255 ; 
put out to nurse, 256; 
origin of name Finn (Fair One), 256; 
slays Lia, 256; 

taught poetry and science by Druid Finegas, 256; 
eats of the Salmon of Knowledge, 256; 
slays goblin at Slieve Fuad, 258; 
made captain of the Fianna of Erin, 258; 
makes a covenant with Conan, 258, 259; 
Dermot of the Love Spot, friend of, 261 ; 
weds Grania, 261; 
OisTn, son of, 261; 

Geena mac Luga, one of the men of, 262; 
teaches the maxims of the Fianna to mac Luga, 262, 263; 
Murna, the mother of, 266; 
Bran and Skolawn, hounds of, 266-269; 
weds Saba, 267; 

Saba taken from, by enchantment, 268; 
Niam of the Golden Hair comes to, 270; 
experience in the enchanted cave, 277, 278; 
Goll rescues, 277, 278; 
gives his daughter Keva to Goll, 278; 
"The Chase of Slievegallion" and, 278-280; 
"The Masque of," by Mr. Standish O'Grady, 280, 281; 
the Hard Gilly (Gilla Dacar) and, 292-295; 



Grania and, 296-304; 

bewails Oscar's death, 306; 

in all Ossianic literature no complete narrative of death of, 

tradition says he lies in trance in enchanted cave, like Kaiser 

Barbarossa, 308 

Fintan. The Salmon of Knowledge, of which Finn eats, 256 

Fionuala (fee-un-oo'la). Daughter of Lir and step-daughter of 
Aoife, 139; 
Aoife's transformation into swans of Fionuala and, her 
brothers, 140-142 

Fir-Bolg. See Firbolgs, 103 

Firbolgs. Nemedian survivors who return to Ireland, 102; 
name signifies "Men of the Bags," 102, 103; 
legend regarding, 102, 103; 
the Fir-Bolg, Fir-Domnan, and Galioin races generally 

designated as the, 103; 
the Danaans and the, 106-119, 137 

Fir-dom 'nan. See Firbolgs, 103 

Flegetan'is. A heathen writer, whose Arabic book formed a 
source for poet Kyot, 408 

Fohla (fo'la). Wife of Danaan King mac Cecht, 132 

Foill. A son of Nechtan, slain by Cuchulain, 194 

Foll'aman. Conor's youngest son; 
leads boy corps against Maev, 214 


412 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Fomor'ians. A misshapen, violent people representing the 
powers of evil; 
their battle with the Partholanians, 97; 
Nemedians in constant warfare with, 101; 
their tyranny over country of Ireland, 109; 
encounter between the Danaans and, 117, 118, 137 

Forbay. Son of Conor mac Nessa; 
slays Maev, 245 

Ford of Ferdia. Place on the River Dee; 

one champion at a time to meet Cuchulain at, 21 1 ; 
the struggle at, between Cuchulain and Ferdia, 216-220 

Forgall the Wily. The lord of Lusca, father of Emer, 185; 
meets his death in escaping from Cuchulain, 195 

Foth'ad. King, slain in battle with Finn mac Cumhal; 
wager as to place of death made by Mongan, 8 1 

Frag'arach ("The Answerer"). 

Terrible sword brought by Lugh from the Land of the Living, 


France. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27 

Fuamnach (foo'am-nach). Wife of Midir the Proud, 156; 
her jealousy of a second bride, Etain, 156; 
transforms Etain into a butterfly by magic art, 156-158; 
Midir tells of her death, 160 



Gae Bolg. The thrust of, taught by Skatha to Cuchulain, 188, 
Cuchulam slays his son Connla by, 192; 
Cuchulain slays Loch by, 213; 
Cuchulain slays Ferdia by, 220 

Gaelic. Cymric language and, 35; 

effect of legends of, on Continental poets, 50; 
bards' ideas of chivalric romance anticipated by, 246; 
Cymric legend and, compared, 344-419; 
Continental romance and, 345 

Gaels. Sacrifices of children by, to idol Crom Cruach, 85 

GjESAt'i. Celtic warriors, in battle of Clastidium, 41 

Galatia. Celtic state of, St. Jerome's attestation re, 34 

Gal'ioin. See Firbolgs, 103 

Galles, M. Rene. Tumulus of Mane-er-H'oeck described by, 63 

Garach. Mac Roth views Ulster men on Plain of, 223 ; 
the battle of, 223-225 

Gaul-s. Under Roman yoke, 35; 
Caesar's account of, 37; 
described by Diodorus Siculus, 41, 42; 
described by Ammianus Marcellinus, 42; 
Dr. Rice Holmes describes, 43; 

commerce on Mediterranean, Bay of Biscay, &c, of, 44; 
religious beliefs and rites described by Julius Csesar, 51, 52; 
human sacrifices in, 84; 
votive inscriptions to iEsus, Teutates, and Taranus, found in, 

86, 87; 
Dis, or Pluto, a most notable god of, 88; 
dead carried from, to Britain, 131; 
Maon taken to, 153 

414 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"Gaulois, La Religion des." Reference to, 55, 83 

Gauvain (Sir Gawain). Fellow-knight with Perceval, 406 

Gavr'inis. Chiromancy at, 64 

Geena mac Luga. Son of Luga, one of Finn's men, 262; 
Finn teaches the maxims of the Fianna to, 262, 263 

Geis-e (singular, gaysh; plural, gaysha). The law of the, 164; 
meaning of this Irish word explained, 164; 
instances: Dermot of the Love Spot, Conary Mdr, and Fergus 

mac Roy, 165; 
Grania puts Dermot under, 298 

Gelon. Defeat of Hamilcar by, at Himera, 22 

Genealogy. Of Conary Mdr, from Eochy, 164; 
of Conor mac Nessa, from Ross the Red, 181; 
of Cuchulain and Conall of the Victories, from Druid 

Cathbad, 181; 
of Don, 350; 
ofLlyr, 351; 
of Arthur, 352 

Geneir. Knight of Arthur's court, 401 

Geoffrey of Monmouth. Bishop of St. Asaph; 

his "Historia Regum Britania?" written to commemorate 
Arthur's exploits, 337 

Geraint. The tale of Enid and, 399, 400 

Gerald, Earl. Son of goddess Aine, 128 


GermB (ghermawn — g hard). Diuran and, companions of 
Maeldun on his wonderful voyage, 313 

Germanic Words. Many important, traceable to Celtic origin, 


Germans. Menace to classical civilisation of, under names of 
Cimbri and Teu tones, 31; 
de Jubainville's explanation regarding, as a subject people, 31; 
overthrow of Celtic supremacy by, 33; 
burial rites practised by, 33; 
chastity of, 41 

Germany. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27 

Gilla Dacar (The Hard Gilly). Story of, 292-295 

Gilvaeth'wy. Son of Don, nephew of Math, 378; 
his love for Goewin, and its sequel, 378-380 

Giraldus Cambrensis. Testimony to the fairness of the Irish 
Celt, 21. 
See Bleheris 

Glen Etive. Dwelling place of Naisi and Deirdre, 198 

Gloucester. Mabon released from prison in, 392; 
the "nine sorceresses" of, 404 

Glower. The strong man of the Wee Folk, 246 

Glyn Cuch. Pwyll's hunt in woods of, 357 

Goban the Smith. Brother of Kian and Sawan; 

corresponds to Wayland Smith in Germanic legend, 110, 117; 
Ollav F51a compared with, 150 


416 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

God. Cythrawl and, two primary existences in the Cymric 

cosmogony, standing for principles of life and 
destruction, 333-335; 
the ineffable Name of, pronounced, and the "Manred" 
formed, 333 

Gods. Megalithic People's conception of their, 86, 87; 
of Aryan Celts, equated by Csesar with Mercury, Apollo, 

Mars, &c , 86; 
triad of, iEsus, Teutates, and Taranus, mentioned by Lucan, 

Lugh, or Lugus, the god of Light, 88 

Goewin (go-ay 'win). Daughter of Pebin; 

Gilvaethwy's love for, and its sequel, 378-380 

Golasecca. A great settlement of the Lowland Celts, in 
Cisalpine Gaul, 56 

Goleuddydd. Wife of Kilydd; 
mother of Kilhwch, 386, 387 

Goll mac Morna. Son of Morna, captain of the Fianna of Erin, 
swears service to Finn, 258; 
Finn recalls the great saying of, 267; 
rescues Finn from the enchanted cave, 277, 278; 
Keva of the White Skin given as wife to, 278; 
adventure with the wether, 291, 292 

Gonemans. Knight who trains Perceval (Peredur), 405 

Gorboduc. "Historia Regum Bntanise" furnished subject for, 

337 338 

Gor'ias, The City of (see Dana), 105, 106 


Gowra (Gabhra). References to Oscar's death at, 261-275; 
battle of, between Clan Bascna and Clan Morna, 305-309; 
Oscar's death at, 305-308; 
King of Ireland's death at, 306 

Grail. Legends of the, 400; 
the tale of Peredur and the 400; 
Chrestien de Troyes' story of, 404; 
identical with the Cup ot the Last Supper, 406; 
Wolfram von Eschenbach's conception of the story of the 407; 
preserved in Castle of Munsalvasche, 407; 
the, a talisman of abundance, 409; 
false derivation of the word, from greable, 409; 
true derivation, 409, note; 
combination of Celtic poetry, German mysticism, Christian 

Chivalry, and ancient sun-myths contained in, 


Grania. Loved by Dermot of the Love Spot, 123; 
elopes with Dermot, 261; 
tales of Deirdre and, compared, 296-304; 
borne to Hill of Allen as Finn's bride, 304 

Great Britain. Western extremity of, is Land of the Dead, 131 

Greece. Dolmens found in, 53; 

oppression in, of the Firbolgs, 102, 103 

Greek-s. Celts and, 17; 

wars in alliance with Celts, 22; 

break monopoly of Carthaginian trade with Britain and Spain, 

secure overland route across France to Britain 22; 
type of civilisation, Celtica preserved, 22 

418 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Grey of Macha. Cuchulain's horse, ridden by Sualtam to rouse [440] 
men of Ulster, 221, 222; 
resists being harnessed by Laeg, 230; 
mortally wounded by Ere, 232; 
defends Cuchulain, 233 

Gronw Pebyr (gron'oo payber). 
Loved by Blodeuwedd, 383; 
slain by Llew, 384 

Guairy, Hugh (gwai'ry). 

Arrested for murder, and tried at Tara by Dermot, 48 

Guary (gwar'y). 
High King; 
taunts Sanchan Torpest about the "Tain," 234 

Guest, Lady Charlotte. 
Her collections of tales, 412 
See "Mabinogion" 


Nephew of King Arthur, 397, 401 


Rival of Pwyll's for Rhiannon's hand, 361, 362 

Gwenhwyvar (gwen'hoo-ivar). 
Wife of King Arthur, 394 


Son of Matholwch and Branwen, 368; 
assumes sovranty of Ireland, 370 


Gwion Bach. Son of Gwreang; 

put to stir magic cauldron by Ceridwen, 413; 
similar action to Finn, 413 

Gwlwlyd (goo-loo lid). 
The dun oxen of, 390 

Gwreang (goo're-ang). 
Father of Gwion Bach, 413 

Gwrnach (goor-nach). 
the sword of the, 390 


Horses of, drink of poisoned stream, hence the stream 

"Poison of the Horses of," 413; 
his son Elphin finds Taliesin, 414 

Son of D5n; 
place in Cymric mythology taken later by the god Artaius, 

nephew of Math, 378; 
the swine of Pryderi and, 378-380 

Gwyn ap Nudd. 

A Cymric deity likened to Finn (Gaelic) and to Odin (Norse), 

combat every May-day between Gwythur ap Greidawl and, 

353, 388 


Math, lord of, 378 

420 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 



the second of three concentric circles representing the totality 
of being in the Cymric cosmogony, in which 
life is manifested as a pure, rejoicing force 
triumphant over evil, 334 


Combat every May-day between Gwyn ap Nudd and, 353, 


Hades (or Annwn). 

The Magic Cauldron part of the spoils of, 410 


Defeat of, at Himera, by Gelon, 22 

Hamitic, The. 

Preserved in syntax of Celtic languages, 78 


Rival of Arawn; 

mortally wounded by Pwyll, 357,358 

HECATiE'US of Abdera. 

Musical services of Celts (probably of Great Britain) 
described by, 58 

Hecat^eus of Miletus. 

First extant mention of "Celts" by, 17 


Son of Gwynn, 372 



Bard at Arthur's court, 416 

Hellan'icus of Lesbos. 
Celts and, 17 

Celts and, 17, 56 

Hevydd HB. 

Father of Rhiannon, 360 

High Kings of Ireland. 

Stone of Destiny used for crowning of, 105 

Hill of Aine. 

Name of goddess Aine clings to, 128; 

Aine appears, on a St. John's Night, among girls on, 128 

Hill of Allen. 

Finn's hounds, while returning to, recognise Saba, 266; 

OisTn returns to, 273; 

Finn returns to, 278; 

return of the Fianna to, to celebrate the wedding feast of Finn 

and Tasha, 295; 
Finn bears Grania as his bride to, 304 


Hill of Keshcorran. Finn bewitched by hags on, 277 
Hill of Macha. Significance, 25 1 
"Historia Britonum." See Nennius 

422 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Historia Regum Britanle. See Geoffrey of Monmouth. 
Furnished subject for "Gorborduc" and "King Lear," 338; 
wonderful success of, translated by Wace into French, by 
Layamon into Anglo-Saxon, 338, 339 

Homer. His gloomy picture of the departed souls of men 
conducted to the underworld, 79, 80; 
reference to, 147 

Horses of Mananan. White-crested waves called, 125 

Hound of Ulster. See Cuchulain, 217, 233; 
element in Gaelic names, 184 

Hugh. One of the Children of Lir, 142 

Hull, Miss, referred to, 133, note; 203, note 

Hungary. Miled's name as a god in a Celtic inscription from, 

Hyde, Dr. Douglas. Reference to his folk tale about Dermot of 
the Love Spot. 291 

Hyperbor'eans. Equivalent to Celts, 17 


Iberians Aquitani and, resemblance between, 58, 59 

Ilda'nach ("The All-Craftsman"). Surname conferred upon 
Lugh, the Sun-god, 113 

Illyrians Celts conquer, 22 

Immortality. Origin of so-called "Celtic" doctrine of, 75, 76; 
Egyptian and "Celtic" ideas of, 78-89 


India. Dolmens found in, 53; 
symbol of the feet found in, 77; 

practice in, of allotting musical modes to seasons of the year, 

Indra. Hindu sky-deity corresponding to Brown Bull of 
Quelgny, 203 

Ingcel. One-eyed chief, son of King of Great Britain, an exile, 

Invasion Myths, The, of Ireland. See Myths 

Inversken'a Ancient name of Kenmore River, so called after 
Skena, 133 

Ireland Unique historical position of, 35; 
Dermot mac Kerval, High King of, 47; 
apostolised by St Patrick, 5 1 ; 
Lowland Celts founders of lake-dwellings in, 56; 
holy wells in, 66; 

tumulus and symbolic carvings at New Grange in, 69-72; 
reference to conversion of, to Christianity, 83; 
Lugh, or Lugus, god of Light, in, 88; 
history of, as related by Tuan, 98-100; 
Nemed takes possession of, 98; 
Fomorians establish tyranny over, 101; 
Standish O'Grady's "Critical History of," reference to, 119, 

displacement of Danaans in, by Milesians, 130; 
Ith's coming to, 130-136; 
name of Eriu (dative form Erinn), poetic name applied to, 

Amergin's lay, sung on touching soil of, 134; 
Milesian host invade, 135; 

424 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

the Children of Miled enter upon sovranty of, but henceforth 
there are two Irelands, the spiritual, occupied 
by the Danaans, and the earthly by the 
Milesians, 136-145; 

Eremon, first Milesian king of all, 143, 144; 

reference to Christianity and paganism in, 145; 

Milesian settlement of, 148; 

Ollav Fola, most distinguished Ollav of, 149 — 150; 

Maon reigns over, 154; 

raid of Conary's foster-brothers in, 169; 

The Terrible decides the Championship of, 196; 

proclaims Cuchulain Champion of, 196; 

Naisi and Deirdre land in, 199; 

Cairbry, son of Cormac mac Art, High King of, 304; 
[442] Maeldun and his companions return to, 330; 

the Arthurian saga never entered, 343; 

invaded by Bran, 369-372; 

Matholwch hands over to Gwern the sovranty of, 370 

Irish. Element of place-names, found in France, Switzerland, 
Austria, &c, 28; 

Spenser's reference to eagerness of, to receive news, 37; 

the Ulster hero, Cuchulain, in saga, 41; 

the tumulus at New Grange in, 69; 

Christianity, early, magical rites of Druidism survive in, 83; 

legend, four main divisions in cycle of, 95; 

folk-melodies, the Coulin, one of the most beautiful of, 1 19; 

god of Love, Angus Og the, 121; 

"Mythological Cycle," de Jubainville's, reference to, 131; 

place-names, significance of, 250; 

legend, St. Patrick and, 283; 

literature, effect of Christianity on, 295 296 
Irnan. Lays Finn under geise to engage in single combat, 278; 

slain by Goll, 278 


Iron Age. The ship a well-recognised form of sepulchral 
enclosure in cemeteries of the, 76 

Island-s. Strange adventures of Maeldun and his companions 
on wonderful, 312-331; 
of the Slayer, 313; 
of the Ants, 313; 
of the Great Birds, 313; 
of the Fierce Beast, 314; 
of the Giant Horses, 314; 
of the Stone Door, 314; 
of the Apples, 315; 
of the Wondrous Beast, 315; 
of the Biting Horses, 315; 
of the Fiery Swine, 316; 
of the Little Cat, 316; 
of the Black and White Sheep, 317; 
of the Giant Cattle, 317; 
of the Mill, 318; 
of the Black Mourners, 318; 
of the Four Fences, 318; 
of the Glass Bridge, 319; 
of the Shouting Birds, 320; 
of the Anchorite, 320; 
of the Miraculous Fountain, 320; 
of the Smithy, 321; 
of the Sea of Clear Glass, 321 ; 
of the Undersea, 321; 
of the Prophecy, 322; 
of the Spouting Water, 322; 
of the Silvern Column, 322; 
of the Pedestal, 323; 
of the Women, 323,324; 
of the Red Berries, 325; 

426 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

of the Eagle, 325-327; 
of the Laughing Folk, 327; 
of the Flaming Rampart, 327; 
of the Monk of Tory, 327-329; 
of the Falcon, 329, 330 

Islands of the Dead. See Mananan, 125 

Isle of Man. Supposed throne of Mananan, 125 

Italy. Northern, Celts conquer from Etruscans, 21, 25; 

Murgen and Eimena sent to, by Sanchan Torpest, to discover 
the "Tain," 234, 235 

Ith. Son of Bregon, grandfather of Miled, 130; 
his coming to Ireland, 130-136; 

shores of Ireland perceived by, from Tower of Bregon, 132; 
learns of Neit's slaying, 132; 
welcomed by mac Cuill and his brothers, 133; 
put to death by the three Danaan Kings, 133 

Iubdan (youb-dan). King of the Wee Folk, 246; 
Bebo, wife of, 247; 
Bebo and, visit King Fergus in Ulster, 247-249 

Iuchar (you 'char). One of three sons of Turenn, 114; 
Brigit, mother of, 126 

Iucharba (you-char'ba). One of three sons of Turenn, 114; 
Brigit, mother of, 126 


Japan. Dolmens found in, 53 

Jerome, St. Attestation of, on Celtic State of Galatia, 34 

John, Mr. Ivor B. His opinion of Celtic mystical writings, 332 

Jones, Brynmor. Findings of, on origin of populations of Great 
Britain and Ireland, 78 

Joyce, Dr. P.W. Reference to his "Old Celtic Romances," 303, 

Jubainville, M. d'Arbois de. Great Celtic scholar, 18, 23, 24; 
explanation of, regarding Germans as a subject people, 31; 
record regarding Megalithic People, 55; 
reference of, to Taranus (? Thor), the god of Lightning, 87; 
opinion regarding Dis, or Pluto, as representing darkness, 

death, and evil, 88; 
reference to Gaulish god whom Csesar identifies with 

Mercury, 113; 
Brigit identical with Dana, according to, 126; 
Ith's landing in Ireland described in his "Irish Mythological 

Cycle," 131; 
his translation of Amergin's strange lay, 134 


Kai. King Arthur's seneschal, 387, 388; 

accompanies Kilhwch on his quest for Olwen, 388-392; 
refuses Peredur, 401, 402 

Keating. Reference to his "History of Ireland," 150; 
his reference to Maon, 153; 
"History" of, tells of Ket's death, 244; 
"History" of, tells of Maev's death, 245 


428 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Keelta mac Ronan. Summoned from the dead by Mongan, 8 1 ; 
warrior and reciter, one of Finn's chief men, 261; 
St. Patrick and, 265, 266, 289; 
Finn whispers the tale of his enchantment to, 280; 
OisTn and, resolve to part, 282; 
meets St. Patrick, 282; 
assists OisTn bury Oscar, 307 

Keevan of the Curling Locks. Lover of Cleena, 127 

Keltchar (kelt'yar). A lord of Ulster; 
mac Datho's boar and, 243 

Kenmare River. In Co. Kerry; 

ancient name "Inverskena," so called after Skena, 133 

Kenverch'yn. The three hundred ravens of, 399 

Kerry. Murna marries King of, 256 

Kesair (kes'er). Gaulish princess, wife of King Ugainy the 
Great, 152; 
grandmother of Maon, 153 

Ket. Son of Maga; 

rallies to Maev's foray against Ulster, 204; 

slings Conall's "brain ball" at Conor mac Nessa which seven 

years after leads to his death, 240, 241 ; 
the Boar of mac Datho and, 241-244; 
death of, told in Keating's "History of Ireland," 244 

Keva of the White Skin. Daughter of Finn, given in marriage 
to Goll mac Morna, 278 


Kian. Father of Lugh, 109; 

brother of Sawan and Goban, 110; 
the end of , 1 14 

Kicva. Daughter of Gwynn Gohoyw, wife of Pryderi, 365, 373 

Kilhwch (kirhugh). Son to Kilydd and Goleuddydd; 

story of Olwen and, 386-392; 

accompanied on his quest (to find Olwen) by Kai, Bedwyr, 
Kynddelig, Bedwyr (Bedivere), Gwrhyr, 
Gwalchmai, and Menw, 388-392 

Killarney, Lakes of. Ancient name, Locha Lein, given to, by 
Len, 123 

Kilydd. Husband of Goleuddydd, father of Kilhwch, 386, 387 

Kimbay (Cimbaoth). Irish king; 

reign of, and the founding of Emain Macha, 150; 
brother of Red Hugh and Dithorba, 151; 
compelled to wed Macha, 151 

King Lear. "Historia Regum Britanise" furnished the subject of, 


Kingsborough, Lord. "Antiquities of Mexico," example of 
cup-and-ring markings reproduced in his book, 

Knowledge. Nuts of, 256; 
the Salmon of, 256 

Kym'ideu Kyme'in-voll. Wife of Llassar Llaesgyvnewid, 368 

Kymon. A knight of Arthur's court; 
the adventure of, 394-399 


430 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Kyn'ddelig. One of Arthur's servitors; 

accompanies Kilhwch on his quest for Olwen, 388-392 

Kyot (Guiot). Provencal poet; 

and Wolfram von Eschenbach, 408 

La Tene Culture. Relics found in Austria developed into, 29 

Labra the Mariner. See Maon, 154 

Laeg (layg). Cuchulain's friend and charioteer, 183; 
sent by Cuchulain to rouse men of Ulster, 213; 
visits Fairyland to report on Fand, 226; 
the Grey of Macha resists being harnessed by, 230; 
slain by Lewy, 232 

Laery (lay'ry). 1. Son of King Ugainy the Great; 
treacherously slain by his brother Covac, 152. 

2. The Triumphant; 

shrinks from test for the Championship of Ireland, 196; 
mac Datho's boar and, 243. 

3. SonofNeill; 

sees vision of Cuchulain, 239 

Lairgnen (lerg-nen). Connacht chief, betrothed to Deoca; 
seizes the Children of Lir, 142 

Lake of the Cauldron. Place where Matholwch met Llassar 
Llaesgyvnewid and his wife Kymideu 
Kymeinvoll, 367, 368 

Lake of the Dragon's Mouth. Resort of Caer, 121; 
Angus Og joins his love, Caer, at, 122 


Land of the Dead. "Spain" a synonymous term, 130; 

the western extremity of Great Britain is, according to ancient 
writer cited by Plutarch, and also according to 
Procopius, 131 

Land of the Living. = Land of the Happy Dead, 96; 
gifts which Lugh brought from, 113 

Land of Shadows. Dwelling-place of Skatha; 
Cuchulainat, 187-189 

Land of the Wee Folk. See Wee Folk (otherwise, Faylinn), 
246, &c. 

Land of Youth. Identical with "Land of the Dead," "Land of 
the Living," q.v.; 
See Mananan, 113, 125; 
Cleena once lived in, 127; 
Connla's Well in, visited by Sinend, 129; 
still lives in imagination of Irish peasant, 137; 
mystic country of People of Dana after their dispossession by 

Children of Miled, 156; 
pagan conception of, referred to, 161; 
lover from, visits Messbuachalla, to whom she bears Conary, 

166, 167; 
OisTn sees wonders of, 272; 
OisTn returns from, 273; 
"The Lady of the Fountain" and the, 395, 396 

Layamon. Translator. See "Historia Regum Britanise" 

Legend. The cycles of Irish, 95 

Leicester. See Llyr 


432 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Leinster. Book of, and de Jubainville, 24; 

ancient tract, the "Dinnsenchus," preserved in, 85; 
traditional derivation of name, 154; 
men of, rally to Maev's foray against Ulster, 205; 
Mesroda, son of Datho, dwelt in province of, 241 

Leix. Reavers from, slay Ailill Edge-of-Battle, 310; 
Maeldun's voyage to, 311-331 

Len. Goldsmith of Bdv the Red; 

gave ancient name, Locha Lein, to the Lakes of Killarney, 123 

Levar'cam. Deirdre's nurse, 197-200; 
Conor questions, re sons of Usna, 199 

Lewy. Son of Curoi, Cuchulain's foe, 228-233; 
slain by Conall of the Victories, 233 

Lia (lee 'a). Lord of Luachar, treasurer to the Clan Morna, 255; 
slain by Finn, 256; 
father of Conan, 258 

Lia Fail (lee 'a fawl), The. The Stone of Destiny, 121 

Liagan (lee'a-gan). A pirate, slain by Conan mac Morna, 260 

Light-of-Beauty. See Sgeimh Solais 

Lir (leer). 

1. Sea-god, father of Mananan, 113, 139; 

Mananan and, referred to, 125; 
identical with the Greek Oceanus, 125; 
father of Lodan and grandparent of Sinend, 129; 
Cymric deity Llyr corresponds with, 347. 

2. The Children of, the transformation of, 139-142; 

their death, 142 


Lismore. "The Dean of Lismore's Book," by James Macgregor. 
Dean of, described, 288 

Llassar Llaesgyv'newid. Husband of Kymideu Kymeinvoll, 
giver of magic cauldron to Bran, 368 

Llevelys. Son of Beli; 

story of Ludd (Nudd) and, 385, 386 

Llew Llaw Gyffes. Otherwise "The Lion of the Sure Hand." 
A hero the subject of the tale "Math Son of Mathonwy," 347, 

identical with the Gaelic deity Lugh of the Long Arm, 347, 

how he got his name, 381, 382; 
the flower- wife of, named Blodeuwedd, 382, 383; 
slays Gronw Pebyr, who had betrayed him, 383, 384 

Lludd. See Nudd 

Llwyd. Son of Kilcoed, an enchanter; 

removes magic spell from seven Cantrevs of Dyfed, and from 
Pryderi and Rhiannon, 377 

Llyr. In Welsh legend, father of Manawyddan; 
Irish equivalents, Lir and Mananan, 347; 
Llyr-cester (now Leicester) once a centre of the worship of, 

house of, corresponds with Gaelic Lir, 348, 349; 
Penardun, daughter of D5n, wife of, 349; 
genealogy set forth, 351 

Loch. Son of Mofebis, champion sent by Mae against 
Cuchulain, 212; 
wounds Cuchulain, but is slain by him, 212 

434 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Loch Gara. Lake in Roscommon; 
mac Cecht's visit to, 176 

Loch Rory. Fergus mac Leda's adventure in, 249 

Loch Ryve. Maev retires to island on, and is slain there by 
Forbay, 245 

Lodan. Son of Lir, father of goddess Sinend, 129 
Loherangrain. Knight of the Swan, son of Parzival, 408 

Loughcrew. Great tumulus at, supposed burying-place of Ollav 
Fola, 150 

Lourdes. Cult of waters of, 66, 67 
Lucan. Triad of deities mentioned by, 86 
Luchad (loo-chad). Father of Luchta, 112 

Luchta (looch-ta). Son of Luchad, 112; 
the carpenter of the Danaans, 117 

Ludgate. For derivation see Nudd 


Lugh (loo), or Lugus. 

1. See Apollo, 58; 

the god of Light, in Gaul and Ireland, as, 88; 

2. Son of Kian, the Sun-god par excellence of all Celtica, the 

coming of, 109-113; 
other names, Ildanach ("The All-Craftsman") and Lugh 

Lamfada (Lugh of the Long Arm), 1 13, 

his eric from sons of Turenn for murder of his father, 

Kian, 115-116; 
slays Balor and is enthroned in his stead, 117; 
fiery spear of, 121; 

his worship widely spread over Continental Celtica, 123; 
father, by Dectera, of Cuchulain, 123, 182; 
Cymric deity Llew Llaw Gyffes corresponds with, 347, 


Lugh of the Long Arm. See Lugh. 
Invincible sword of, 105, 106; 
Bres, son of Balor, and, 123; 
husband of Dectera and father of Cuchulain, 182; 
appears to Cuchulain and protects the Ford while his son 

rests, 214; 
fights by his son's side, 215; 
Cymric hero Llew Llaw Gyfles corresponds with, 347, 348 


Luned. Maiden who rescued Owain, 397; 
Owain rescues her, 398, 399 


436 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

"MabinB'ion, The" (singular, Mabinogi). 

Reference to story of Kilhwch and Olwen in, 343; 

"The Red Book of Hergest," the main source of the tales of, 

"Math Son of Mathonwy," tale in, 347; 
Mr. Alfred Nutt's edition, 356; 
Four Branches of the Mabinogi form most important part of, 

Peredur's story in, and French version, 406; 
the tale of Taliesin and, 412 

Mabon. Son of Modron, released by Arthur, 391, 392 

Maccecht. Danaan king, husband of Fohla, 132; 

member of Conary's retinue at Da Derga's Hostel, 175; 
his search for water, 175, 176 

Maccuill (quill). Danaan king, husband of Banba, 132; 
at fortress of Aileach, 132 

Macgrene. Danaan king, husband of Eriu, 132; 
mythical name Son of the Sun, 132 

Mac Indoc', The Plain of. Laery and St. Benen on, 239 

MacKerval, Dermot. Rule of, in Ireland, and the cursing of 
Tara, 47, 48. 
See Dermot 

Macpherson. Pseudo-Ossian poetry of, 238 
Mac Roth. Maev's steward, named, and the Brown Bull of 
Quelgny, 202; 
sent to view host of Ulster men, 223 

Macedon. Attacked by Thracian and Illyrian hordes, 23 


Macha. Daughter of Red Hugh, 151; 

slays Dithorba and compels Kimbay to wed her, 151; 

captures five sons of Dithorba, 151, 152; 

forms an instance of the intermingling of the attributes of the 

Danaan with the human race, 152; 
a super-natural being, 178; 
goes to dwell with Crundchu, 178; 
her race against Ultonian horses, 179; 
gives birth to twins and curses the Ultonians, 180; 
her curse on men of Ulster, 203-221 ; 
the curse removed from men of Ulster, 222 

Maeldun. Son of Ailill Edge-of-Battle, 310; 
departs to his own kindred, 311; 
sets out on his wonderful voyage, 311-331 

Maeldun, Voyage of (mayl'-doon). Found in MS. entitled 
"Book of the Dun Cow," 309; 
reference to Dr. Whitley Stokes' translation in the "Revue 

Celtique," 309; 
theme of Tennyson's "Voyage of Maeldune" furnished by 
Joyce's version in "Old Celtic Romances," 
narrative of, 311-331 

Maen Tyriawc (ma'en tyr'i-awc). Burial-place of Pryderi, 379 


438 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Maev (mayv). Queen of Connacht, 122; 
Angus Og seeks aid of, 122; 
debility of Ultonians manifested on occasion of Cattle-raid of 

Quelgny, 180; 
Fergus seeks aid of, 202; 
her famous bull Finnbenach, 202; 

her efforts to secure the Brown Bull of Quelgny, 204-246; 
host of, spreads devastation through the territories of Bregia 

and Murthemney, 209; 
offers her daughter Findabair of Fair Eyebrows to Ferdia if he 

will meet Cuchulain, 216; 
Conor summons men of Ulster against, 222; 
overtaken but spared by Cuchulain, 225; 
makes seven years' peace with Ulster, 225; 
vengeance of, against Cuchulain, 228-233; 
mac Datho's hound and, 241-244; 
retires to island on Loch Ry ve, 245 ; 
slain by Forbay, 245 

Maga. Daughter of Angus Og, wife of Ross the Red, 181; 
wedded also to Druid Cathbad, 181 

Magi. Word magic derived from, 60; 
treated by Pliny, 61 

Magic. The religion of Megalithic People that of, 59; 
origin of word, 60; 
Pliny on, 61; 

religion of, invented in Persia and by Zoroaster, 61; 
traces of, in Megalithic monuments, 63; 
Clan Calatin learn, in Ireland, Alba, and Babylon, to practise 
against Cuchulain, 228-233 

Maitre, M. Albert. Inspector of Musee des Antiquites 
Nationales, 64 


Malory. Anticipated by Wace, 338, 339; 
Cymric myths and, 388 

Man'anan. Son of the Sea-god, Lir, 113, 139; 

magical Boat of, brought by Lugh, with Horse of, and sword 

Fragarach, from the Land of the Living, 113, 

attributes of Sea-god mostly conferred on, 125; 
the most popular deity in Irish mythology, 125; 
lord of sea beyond which Land of Youth or Islands of the 

Dead were supposed to lie, 125; 
master of tricks and illusions, owned magical 

possessions — boat, Ocean-Sweeper; steed, 

Aonbarr; sword, The Answerer, &c. &c, 125; 
reference to daughter of, given to Angus, a Danaan prince, 

his wife, Fand, sets her love on Cuchulain, 226; 
Fand recovered by, 227; 

shakes his cloak between Fand and Cuchulain, 228; 
Cymric deity Manawyddan corresponds with, 347, 348 

Manawyddan (mana-wudh'en). In Welsh mythology, son of 
Irish equivalents, Mananan and Lir, 347; 
Bendigeid Vran ("Bran the Blessed"), his brother, 365; 
the tale of Pryderi and, 373-378; 
weds Rhiannon, 373 

Mane-er-h'oeck. Remarkable tumulus in Brittany, 63, 64 

Manes. Seven outlawed sons of Ailell and Maev, 169; 
their rally to Maev's foray against Ulster, 204 

Manessier. A continuator of Chrestien de Troyes, 408 

440 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Man'etho. Egyptian historian, reference to human sacrifices, 

Manred. The ineffable Name of God pronounced, and so was 
formed, 333; 
the primal substance of the universe, 333 

Maon (may'un). Son of Ailill; 

brutal treatment of, by Covac, 152-154; 

has revenge on Ailill by slaying him and all his nobles, 153; 

weds Moriath, and reigns over Ireland, 154; 

equivalent, "Labra the Mariner," 154 

Marcellin'us, Ammian'us. Gauls described by, 42 

Marie de France. Anglo-Norman poetess; 

sources relating to the Arthurian saga in writings of, 339, 340 

MB son of MB. Title of tale in the "Mabinogion," 347; 
Llew Llaw Gyffes, a character in tale of, 347, 348; 
brother of Penardun, 349; 
the tale of, 378-384; 

Gwydion and Gilvaethwy, nephews of, 378; 
his strange gift of hearing, 386 

Matholwch (math'o-law). King of Ireland; 

comes seeking Branwen's hand in marriage, 366; 

wedding of, and Branwen's, celebrated at Aberffraw, 366; 

Evnissyen mutilates his horses, 367; 

Bran, among other gifts, gives a magic cauldron to, 367, 368; 

father of Gwern, 368; 

informed of Bran's invasion, 369; 

hands sovranty of Ireland to Gwern, 370 

MB. Ancestor of House of Don, 349 


Matiere de France. Source of Round Table and chivalric 
institutions ascribed to Arthur's court, 341 

Maxen Wledig (oo'le-dig). Emperor of Rome; 
the dream of, 384, 385 

May-Day. Sacred to Beltene, day on which Sons of Miled 
began conquest of Ireland, 133, 134; 
combat every, between Gwythur ap Greidawl and Gwyn ap 

Nudd, 353; 
strange scream heard in Britain on eve of, 385 

Meath. Fergus in his battle-fury strikes off the tops of the three 
Mae la of, 224; 
St. Patrick and the folk of, 282 

Medicine. See Magic, 60, 61; 
Pliny and, 61 

Megalithic People. Builders of dolmens, cromlechs, &c, 
origin of the, 54-58; 

Professor Ridgeway's contention about, 56; 
their religion that of magic, 59; 
representations of the divine powers under human aspect 

unknown to, 75; 
Druidism imposed on the Celts by the, 82; 
human sacrifices, practice a survival from the, 84; 
conception of, regarding their deities, 86 

Mercury. Regarded as chief of the gods by Gauls, 87; 
Lugh Lamf ada identified with, 113 


442 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Merlin. See Myrddin. 

Reference to his magical arts, 337; 

equivalent Myrddin, 354; 

believed by Geoffrey of Monmouth to have erected 

Stonehenge, 354; 
the abode of, described, 354-356 

Mesged'ra. The vengeance of, fulfilled, 241 

Mesro'da, mac Datho. Son of Datho, 241; 
the carving of the boar of, 241-244; 
Conor and Maev both send to purchase his hound, 241 

Messbuachalla (mess-boo'hala). Only daughter of Etain Oig, 
significance, "the cowherd's foster-child," 166; 
King Eterskel's promised son and, 166; 
visited by a Danaan lover, and birth of Conary, 166, 167 

Mexico. Cup-and-ring marking in, 68; 
symbol of the feet found in, 77; 

the cross-legged "Buddha," frequent occurrence in religious 
art of, 87 

Midir the Proud (mid'eer). A son of the Dagda; 
a type of splendour, 124; 
his appearance to King Eochy, 124; 
Fuamnach, wife of, 156; 
Etain, second bride of, 156; 
recovers his wife from Eochy, 160-163; 
yields up Etain, 163 



1. Sons of; 

conquer the People of Dana, 100; 

the coming of, to displace rule in Ireland of Danaans, 130; 

Bregon, son of, 130; 

Amergin, son of, 133; 

begin conquest of Ireland on May-day, 133, 134. 

2. A god, represented as, in a Celtic inscription from 

Hungary, son of Bile, 130. 

3. Children of; 

resolve to take vengeance for Ith's slaying, 133; 
enter upon the sovranty of Ireland, 136 

Milesian-s. See Sons of Miled, 130; 
myth, meaning of, 138-145; 
the early kings, 146-148 

Minorca. Analogous structures (to represent ships) to those in 
Ireland found in, 76 

Mochaen (mo-chayn'). Hill of, and Lugh's eric, 115 

Modred. King Arthur's nephew; 

usurps his uncle's crown and weds his wife Guanhumara, 337; 
Arthur defeats and slays, 337, 338 

Mongan. Irish chieftain, reincarnation of Finn; 
wager as to place of death of King Fothad, 8 1 

Montel'ius, Dr. Oscar. And the ship symbol, 72 

Moonre'mur. A lord of Ulster; 
mac Datho's boar and, 243 

444 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Morann. Druid; 

prophecy of, concerning Cuchulain, 183 

Morc. Fomorian king, 101 

Morda. A blind man, set by Ceridwen to keep fire under the 
magic cauldron, 413 

Mor'iath. Daughter of Scoriath, the King of Feramore; 
[449] her love for Maon and her device to win him back to Ireland, 

153, 154; 
curious tale regarding his hair, 154 

Morna. Father of Goll, 257 

Morr'igan, The. Extraordinary goddess, embodying all that is 
perverse and horrible among supernatural 
powers, 126; 

her love and friendship for Cuchulain, 126; 

her visit to Conary Mor at Hostel of Da Derga, 172; 

appears to Cuchulain and offers her love, 212; 

her threat to be about his feet in bottom of the Ford, 212; 

attacks Cuchulain, and is wounded by him, 213; 

croaks of war and slaughter before Cuchulain, 230; 

settles on the dead Cuchulain's shoulder as a crow, 233 

Mountains of Mourne. Cuchulain on, 193 

Moyrath. Battle of, ended resistance of Celtic chiefs to 
Christianity, 5 1 

Moyslaught ("The Plain of Adoration"). 
Idol of Crom Cruach erected on, 85, 149 


Moytura, Plain of. 

1. Scene of First Battle (Co. Sligo) between Danaans and the 

Firbolgs, 106, 107. 

2. Scene of Second Battle (Co. Mayo) between Danaans and 

Fomorians, 117, 130; 
the Dagda and, 120 

Munsalvasche (Montsalvat), The Castle of, where, in W. 
von Eschenbach's poem, the Grail is preserved, 

Munster. Ailill Olum, King of, 127; 
"Hill of Aine" and goddess Aine 128; 
origin of name, 154 

Mur'ias, The City of (see Dana), 105, 106 

Murna of the White Neck. Wife of Cumhal, mother of Finn, 
255, 266; 
takes refuge in forests of Slieve Bloom, and gives birth to 

Demna (Finn), 255; 
marries King of Kerry, 256 

Murtagh mac Erc. King of Ireland, brother of Fergus the Great; 
lends famous Stone of Scone to Scotland, 105 


Kian killed on Plain of, 114; 

Cuchulain of, seen in a vision by prophetess Fedelma, 206; 

the carnage of, 214; 

host of Ulster assemble on, 229; 

Cuchulain at his dun in, 230 

Mycen'^e. Burial chamber of the Atreidse, ancient dolmen yet 
stands beside, in, 53 

446 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Myrddin. See Merlin. 

A deity in Arthur's mythological cycle, corresponds with 

Sun-god Nudd, 354; 
suggestion of Professor Rhys that chief deity worshipped at 

Stonehenge was, 355; 
seizes the "Thirteen Treasures of Britain," 355 

Mythological Cycle, The, 95, 96 

Mythology. Comparison between Gaelic and Cymric, 346-348; 
compared with folklore, 418 

Myths. Danaan, meaning of, 137; 
Milesian, meaning of, 138, 139; 
Invasion, of Ireland, 138-145 


Naisi (nay'see). Son of Usna, loved by Deirdre, 198; 
abducts Deirdre, 198; 
Ardan and Ainle, his brothers, 198; 
Conor invites return of, 198; 
his return under care of Fergus, 199; 
slain by Owen son of Duracht, 201 

Naqada (nak'a-da). Signs on ivory tablets discovered by 
Flinders Petrie in cemetery at, 78 

Narberth. Castle where Pwyll had his court, 359; 

Pwyll's adventure on the Mound of Arberth, near, 359-365; 
Pryderi and Manawyddan and their wives left desolate at 
palace of, 373 

Natchrantal (na-chran'tal). Famous champion of Maev; 
assists to capture Brown Bull, 211 


Nechtan. Dun of the sons of, 193; 

Cuchulain provokes a fight with sons of, 193, 194; 
sons of, slain, 194 

Neit (nayt). 

Danaan king, slain in battle with the Fomorians, 132 

Nemed. Son of Agnoman; 

takes possession of Ireland, 98; 

fights victoriously against Fomorians, his death, 101 

Nemedians. Sail for Ireland, 99; 
akin to the Partholanians, 101; 
revolt of, against Fomorians, 101, 102; 
routed by Fomorians, 102 

Nemglan. Commands Conary go to Tara, 168; 
he declares Conary's geise, 168 

Nennius. British historian in whose "Historia Britonum" (A.D. 
800) is found first mention of Arthur, 336 

Nessa. Daughter of Echid Yellow-heel, wife of Fachtna, mother 
of Conor, 180; 
loved by Fergus, 180 

Netherlands. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27 

New Grange. Tumulus at, regarded as dwelling-place of Fairy 
Folk, 69, 70; 
symbolic carvings at, 70, 7 1 ; 
the ship symbol at, 71-73; 
Angus Og's palace at, 121; 
Angus' fairy palace at Brugh na Boyna identical with, 143 

448 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Niam (nee'am). 

1. Wife of Conall of the Victories; 

tends Cuchulain, 229; 

Bave puts a spell of straying on her, 230 

2. Of the Golden Hair; 

daughter of the King of the Land of Youth, 270; 

OisTn departs with, 271, 272; 

permits OisTn to visit the Land of Erin, 273 

Niss'yen. Son of Eurosswyd and Penardun, 366 

Nodens. See Nudd 

Nuada of the Silver Hand (noo'ada). King of the Danaans, 
his encounter with Balor, champion of the Fomorians, 117; 
belongs to Finn's ancestry, 255; 

identical with solar deity in Cymric mythology, viz., Nudd or 
Lludd, 346, 347 

Nudd, or Lludd. Roman equivalent, Nodens. 
A solar deity in Cymric mythology, 346, 347; 
identical with Danaan deity, Nuada of the Silver Hand, 347; 
under name Lludd, said to have had a temple on the site of St. 

Paul's, 347; 
entrance to Lludd's temple called Parth Lludd (British), 

which Saxons translated Ludes Geat — our 

present Ludgate, 347; 
story of Llevelys and, 385, 386; 
Edeyrn, son of, jousts with Geraint for Enid, 399, 400 

Nuts of Knowledge. Drop from hazel-boughs into pool where 
Salmon of Knowledge lived, 256 


Nutt, Mr. Alfred. Reference to, in connexion with the "Hill of 
Aine," 128, 129; 
reference to, in connexion with Oism-and-Patrick dialogues, 

reference to object of the tale of Taliesin in his edition of the 
"Mabinogion," 412 

Nynniaw. Peibaw and, brothers, two Kings of Britain, their 
quarrel over the stars, 355, 356 


O'Donovan. A great Irish antiquary; 
folk-tale discovered by, 109-1 19 

O'Dyna, Cantred of. Dermot's patrimony, 300 


1. Standish. 

References to his "Critical History of Ireland" on the 

founding of Emain Macha, 119, 120, 151, 

his "Masque of Finn" referred to, 280, 281 

2. Standish Hayes. 

Reference to his "Silva Gadelica," 250, 276, 281 

Ocean-Sweeper. Mananan's magical boat, 125 

Odyssey, The. Mr H.B. Cotterill's hexameter version, quotation 
from, 79, 80 

Ogma. Warrior of Nuada of the Silver Hand, 112, 118 


450 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

OisB (ush'een). Otherwise Little Fawn. 
Son of Finn, greatest poet of the Gael, 261; 
father of Oscar, 261; 
buries Aideen, 261; 
birth of, from Saba, 266-270; 
loved by Niam of the Golden Hair, 270-272; 
returns from Land of Youth, 273; 
Keelta and, resolve to part, 282; 
assists Keelta bury Oscar, 307 

Old Celtic Romances. Reference to Dr. P.W. Joyce's, 303, 

Ollav. Definition of the term, 149 

Ollav Fola. Eighteenth King of Ireland from Eremon, the most 
distinguished Ollav of Ireland, 149-150; 
compared with Goban the Smith and Amergin the Poet, 150 

Olwen. The story of Kilhwch and, 386-392; 
daughter of Yspaddaden, 387; 

how she got the name "She of the White Track," 390; 
bride of Kilhwch, 392 

Orlam. Slain by Cuchulain, 209 

Oscar. Son of OisTn; 
slays Linne, 261; 
Aideen, wife of, 261 ; 
her death after battle of Gowra, 261 ; 
type of hard strength, 262; 
reference to death at battle of Gowra, 275; 
his death described, 306, 308 

Osi'ris. Feet of, symbol of visitation, in Egypt, 77 


Ossianic Society. "Transactions" of, 278-280; 
battle of Gowra (Gabhra) described in, 305 

Os 'thanes. Earliest writer on subject of magic, 62 

Other- World. Keelta summoned from, 8 1 ; 
faith of, held by Celts, 82; 
Mercury regarded by Gauls as guide of dead to, 87 

Owain. Son of Urien; 

plays chess with King Arthur, 393; 
the Black Knight and, 396-399; 
seen by Peredur, 401 

Owel. Foster- son of Mananan and a Druid, father of Aine, 127 

Owen. Son of Duracht; 

slays Naisi and other sons of Usna, 201 

Owens of Aran. Ailill, of the sept of , 3 1 1 ; 
Maeldun goes to dwell with, 311 

Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd (coom cawl'wud), The, 392 


Patrick, St. Ireland apostolised by, 51; 
symbol of the feet and, 77 

Pasth'olan. His coming into Ireland from the West; 
his origin, 96 

Partholanians. Battle between the Fomorians and, 97; 
end of race by plague on the Old Plain, 97; 
Nemedians akin to, 101 


452 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Peibaw. Nynniaw and, two brothers, Kings of Britain, their 
quarrel over the stars, 355, 356 

Penar'dun. Daughter of D5n, wife of Llyr, and also of 
Eurosswyd, sister of Math, 349, 366; 
mother of Bran, also of Nissyen and Evnissyen, 366 

People of the Sidhe (shee). 

Danaans dwindle into fairies, otherwise the, 137 

Per'diccas II. Son of Amyntas II., killed in battle, 23 

Per'edur. The tale of, and the origin of the Grail Legend, 400, 
corresponds to Perceval of Chrestien de Troyes, 400 

Per'gamos. Black Stone of, subject of embassy from Rome 
during Second Punic War, 66 

Perilous Glen. Cuchulain escapes beasts of, 187 

"Peronnik" folk tale, 400, note 

Persia. Religion of magic invented in, by Zoroaster, 61 

Petrie, Flinders. Discoveries by, 78; 

on Egyptian origin of symbol of mother and child, 79 

Philip. Younger brother of Perdiccas, 23 

Philo 'stratus. Reference of, to enamelling by Britons, 30 

Plain of Ill-Luck. Cuchulain crosses, 187 

Plato. Celts and, 17; 

evidence of, to Celtic characteristics, 36 


Pliny. Religion of magic discussed by, 61 

Plutarch. Land of the Dead referred to by, as the western 
extremity of Great Britain, 131 

Pluto (Gk. Pluton). Dis, equivalent; 
god of the Underworld, 88; 

associated with wealth, like Celtic gods of the Underworld, 

Polyb'ius. Description of the Gsesati in battle of Clastidium, 41 

Polynesian, the practice named "tabu" and the Irish geis, 
similarity between, 165 

Portugal. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27 

Posidon'ius. On bardic institution among Celts, 57 

Procop'ius. Land of the Dead referred to by as the western 
extremity of Great Britain, 131 

Province of the Spearmen (Irish, Laighin — "Ly-in"). See 
Leinster, 154 

Pryderi (pri-dair'y) (Trouble). Son of Pwyll and Rhiannon; 
his loss 363; 

his restoration by Teirnyon, 365; 
Kicva, the wife of, 365; 
the tale of Manawyddan and, 373-378; 
Gwydion and the swine of, 378; 
his death, 379 

454 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Pwyll (poo-till; modern Powell). Prince of Dyfed; 

how he got his title Pen Annwn, or "Head of Hades," 336-359; 
his adventure on the Mound of Arberth, near the Castle of 

Narberth, 359-365; 
fixes his choice on Rhiannon for wife, 360; 
Gwawl's trick on him, 361; 

Rhiannon's plan to save Pwyll from Gwawl's power, 361; 
weds Rhiannon, 362; 
imposes a penance on his wife, 363; 
his son Pryderi (Trouble) found, 365 

Pythag'oras. Celtic idea of transmigration and, 80 

Pyth'eas. The German tribes about 300 B.C. mentioned by, 31 


Quelgny, or Cuailgne. Cattle-raid of, made by Queen Maev, 
Brown Bull of, owned by Dara, 202; 
the theme of the "Tain Bo Cuailgne" is the Brown Bull of, 

Brown Bull of, is Celtic counterpart of Hindu sky-deity, 

Indra, 203; 
Brown Bull of, captured at Slievegallion, Co. Armagh, by 

Maev, 211; 
white-horned Bull of Ailell slain by Brown Bull of, 225; 
reputed author of, Fergus mac Roy, 234; 
Sanchan Torpest searches for lost lay of, 234-238 


RB. Egyptian Sun god; 

ship symbol in sepulchral art of Egypt connected with 
worship of, 74-76 


Rath Grania. King Cormac and Finn feasted at, 300 

Rath Luachar. Lia keeps the Treasure Bag at, 255 

Rathcroghan. Maev's palace in Roscommon, 202 

Red Branch. Order of chivalry which had its seat in Emain 
Macha, 178; 
the time of glory of, during Conor's reign, 181; 
heroes of, and Cuchulain strive for the Championship of 

Ireland, 195, 196; 
Hostel, Naisi and Deirdre at, 199, 200; 
with Cuchulain and Conor passes away the glory of, 241 

Red Hugh. Ulster prince, father of Macha, brother of Dithorba 
and Kimbay, 151 

Red Riders. Conary's journey with, 170, 171 

Religion. The Celtic, 46; 

Megalithic People's, that of Magic, 58; 

of Magic, invented in Persia and by Zoroaster, 61 

Revue Celtique. Dr. Whitley Stokes' translation of the "Voyage 
ofMaeldun"in, 309 

Rhiannon (ree'an-non). Daughter of Hevydd Hen; 
sets her love on Pwyll, 360; 
marries Pwyll, 362; 
her penance for slaying her son, 363; 
her son Pryderi (Trouble) found, 365; 
wedded to Manawyddan, 373 

Rhonabwy (rone' a-b wee). The dream of, 392, 393 

Rhun. Sent from King Arthur's court to Elphin's wife, 415 


456 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Rhys ap Tewdwr. South Welsh prince; 

brought knowledge of Round Table to Wales, 343 

Rhys, Sir J. His views on origin of population of Great Britain 
and Ireland, 78; 
on Myrddin and Merlin, 354, 355 

Ridge of the Dead Woman. Vivionn buried at, 287, 288 

Roc. Angus' steward, 290; 

his son crushed to death by Donn, 291; 
then changed into a boar and charged to bring Dermot to 
death at length, 291 

Romance. Gaelic and Continental, 345 

Romans. Arthur resists demand for tribute by the, 337 

Rome. Celts march on and sack, 25, 26; 
Britain and Gaul under yoke of, 35; 
the empire of Maxen Wledig in, usurped, 385 

Ross the Red. King of Ulster, husband of Maga, a daughter of 
Angus Og, 181; 
Roy, his second wife, 181; 
originator of the Red Branch, 181 

Round Table, The. References to, 338, 339, 341, 343 

Roy. Second wife of Ross the Red, 181 

Ru'adan, St. Tara cursed by, 47, 49 

Russell, Mr. G.W. Irish poet; 

fine treatment of myth of Sinend and Connla's Well, 129, 130 


Saba. Wife of Finn, mother of Oism, 266-270 

Sacrifices. Practice of human, noted by Caesar among Celts, 84; 
human, in Ireland, 85; 
Celtic practice of human, paralleled in Mexico and Carthage, 

of children, to idol Crom Cruach, by Gaels, 85; 
in Egypt, practice of human, rare, 85, 86 

St. Benen. A companion of St. Patrick, 239 

St. Finnen. Irish abbot; 

legend concernin Tuan mac Carell and, 97 

St. Patrick. Record of his mission to Ireland, 51; 

Cascorach and, referred to in the "Colloquy of the Ancients," 

Brogan, the scribe of, 1 19; 

Ethne aged fifteen hundred years old at coming of, 144; 
Ethne baptized by, 144; 
summons Cuchulain from Hell, 238, 239; 
name Talkenn given by Irish to, 275; 
met by Keelta, 282; 
Irish legend and, 283 

Salmon of Knowledge. See Fintan 

Salmon of Llyn Llyw (lin li-oo'), The, 392 

Samnite War, Third. Coincident with breaking up of Celtic 
Empire, 26 

Sanchan Torpest. Chief bard of Ireland; 
and the "Tain," 234-238 

Sa'wan. Brother of Kian and Goban, 1 10 

458 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Scandinavia. Dolmens found in, 53; 
symbol of the feet found in, 77 

Sem'ion. Son of Stariat, settlement in Ireland of; [454] 

Firbolgs descended from, 100 

Sera. Father of Partholan, 96; 
father of Starn, 98 

Setan'ta. Earliest name of Cuchulain, 183; 
"the little pupil," harries Maev's hosts, 208 

Sgeimh Solais (skayv sulish) (Light of Beauty). 

Daughter of Cairbry, wooed by son of King of the Decies, 304 

Shannon, The River. Myth of Sinend and the Well of 
Knowledge accounts for name of, 129; 
Dithorba's five sons flee over, 151; 
mac Cecht visits, 175; 
Dermot and Grania cross Ford of Luan on the, 299 

Ship Symbol, The. 71-76 

Sic'ulus, Diodorus. A contemporary of Julius Caesar; 
describes Gauls, 41, 42 

Sidhe (shee), or Fairy Folk. Tumulus at New Grange (Ireland) 
regarded as dwelling-place of, 69 

Silva Gadelica. Reference to Mr. S.H. O'Grady's work, 250, 
276, 281 

Sin 'end. Goddess, daughter of Lir's son, Lodan; 
her fatal visit to Connla's Well, 129 

Sign, Llewellyn. Welsh bard, compiler of "Barddas," 332 


Skatha. A mighty woman-warrior of Land of Shadows, 187; 
instructs Cuchulain, 187-189; 

her two special feats, how to leap the Bridge of the Leaps and 
to use the Gae Bolg, 188 

Skena. Wife of the poet Amergin; 
her untimely death, 133 

Slayney, The River. Visited by mac Cecht, 175 

Slievb Bloom. Murna takes refuge in forests of, and there 
Demna (Finn) is born, 255 

Slieve Fuad (sleeve foo'ad) (afterwards Slievegallion). 
Invisible dwelling of Lir on, 125; 
Cuchulain finds his foe on, 232; 
Finn slays goblin at, 258 

Slievegall'ion. A fairy mountain; 
the Chase of, 278-280. 
See Slieve Fuad 

Slievenamon (sleeve-na-mon'). The Brugh of, Finn and Keelta 
hunt on, 284-286 

Sohrab and Rustum. Reference to, 192 

Spain. Celts conquer from the Carthaginians, 21 ; 

Carthaginian trade with, broken down by Greeks, 22; 
place-names of Celtic element in, 27; 
dolmens found round the Mediterranean coast of, 53; 
equivalent, Land of the Dead, 102 

Squire, Mr. Author of "My thol. of Brit. Islands," 348, 353, 411 

Sreng. Ambassador sent to People of Dana by Firbolgs, 106 

460 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Stag of Redynvre (red-in'vry), The, 392 

Starn. Son of Sera, brother of Partholan, 97 

Stokes, Dr. Whitley. Reference to, 166, 167; 

reference to his translation of the "Voyage of Maeldun" in 
"Revue Celtique," 309 

Stone, Coronation. At Westminster Abbey, identical with 
Stone of Scone, 105 

Stone of Abundance. Equivalent, Cauldron of Abundance. 
The Grail in Wolfram's poem as a, 409; 
similar stone appears in the Welsh "Peredur," 409; 
correspondences, the Celtic Cauldron of the Dagda, 410; 
in the Welsh legend Bran obtained the Cauldron, 410; 
in a poem by Taliesin the Cauldron forms part of the spoils of 
Hades, 410 

Stone of Destiny. Otherwise Lia Fail. 
One of the treasures of the Danaans, 105 

Stone of Scone. Fabulous origin of, and present depository, 105 

Stone- Worship. Supposed reason of, 65, 66; 
denounced by Synod of Aries, 66; 
denounced by Charlemagne 66; 
[455] black stone of Pergamos and Second Punic War, 66; 

the Grail a relic of ancient, 409 

Stonehenge. Dressed stones used in megalithic monument at, 
Professor Rhys' suggestion that Myrddin was worshipped at, 

Geoffrey of Monmouth and, 354 


Strabo. Characteristics of Celts, told by, 39, 46 

Straits of Moyle (between Ireland and Scotland). 
Aoife's cruelty to her step-children on the, 140 

Strand of the Footprints. How name derived, 191 

Sualtam (soo'al-tam). Father of Cuchulain (see Lugh), 206; 
his attempts to arouse Ulster, 221; 
his death, 222 

Sweden. The ship symbol on rock-sculptures of, 72, 73 

Switzerland. Place-names of, Celtic element in, 27; 
lake-dwellings in, 56 

"Tain Bo Cuailgne" (thawn bo quel'gny). Significance, 203; 
tale of, all written out by Finn mac Gorman, Bishop of 

Kildare, in 1150,225; 
the recovery of, 234; 
reputed author, Fergus mac Roy, 234; 
Sir S. Ferguson treats of recovery of, in "Lays of the Western 

Gael," 234; 
Sanchan Torpest, taunted by High King Guary, resolves to 

find the lost, 234-236; 
early Celtic MSS. and, 296 

Taliesin (tal-i-es'in). A mythical bard; 

his prophecy regarding the devotion of the Cymry to their 

tongue, 385; 
the tale of, 412-417; 
found by Elphin, son of Gwyddno, 414; 
made prime bard of Britain, 415-417 

462 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Talkenn. (Adze-head). Name given by the Irish to St. Patrick, 


Taltiu, or Telta. Daughter of the King of the "Great Plain" 
(the Land of the Dead), wedded by Eochy mac 
Ere, 103 

Tara. Seat of the High Kings of Ireland; 
the cursing of, 47, 48-49; 
Stone of Scone sent to Scotland from, 105; 
Lugh accuses sons of Turenn at, of his father's murder, 115; 
appearance of Midir the Proud to Eochy on Hill of, 124, 161; 
Milesian host at, 135; 
institution of triennial Festival at, 149-150; 
bull-feast at, to decide by divination who should be king in 

Eterskel's stead, 167, 168; 
Conary commanded to go to, by Nemglan, 168; 
proclaimed King of Erin at, 168; 
pointed out to Cuchulain, 193; 
Cuchulain's head and hand buried at, 233; 
Finn at, 257, 258 

Tar 'anus (? Thor). Deity mentioned by Lucan, 86, 87 

Tegid Voel. A man of Penllyn, husband of Ceridwen, father of 
Avagddu, 413 

Teirnyon (ter'ny-on). A man of Gwent Is Coed; 
finds Pryderi, 364; 
restores Pryderi, 365 


Telltown (Teltin). Palace at, of Telta, Eochy mac Erc's wife, 
great battle at, between Danaans and Milesians, 136; 
Conall of the Victories makes his way to, after Conary's 

death, 176; 
pointed out to Cuchulain, 193 

Tennyson, Lord. Reference to source of his "Voyage of 
Maeldune," 309; 
Cymric myths and, 388; 
reference to his "Enid," 400 

Teutat'es. Deity mentioned by Lucan, 86 

Teutonic. Loyalty of races, 45, 46 

Tezcatlipoca. Sun-god; 
festival of, in Mexico, 77 

The Terrible. A demon who by strange test decides the 
Championship of Ireland, 196 

Thomas of Brittany. See Bleheris 

Tiberius, Emperor. Druids, prophets, and medicine-men 
suppressed by, 62 

Tierna (Teer'na). Abbot of Clonmacnois, eleventh-century 
historian, 150 

Tiernmas (teern'mas). Fifth Irish king who succeeded Eremon, 
idol Crom Cruach and, 148, 149; 
his death, 149 


464 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Tonn Cliodhna (thown cleena). Otherwise "Wave of Cleena." 
One of the most notable landmarks of Ireland, 127 

Tor Mor. Precipitous headland in Tory Island; 
Ethlinn imprisoned by Balor in tower built on, 110 

Tory Island. Stronghold of Fomorian power, 101; 
invaded by Nemedians, 101 

Tradaban', The Well of. Keelta's praises of, 282, 283 

Transmigration. The doctrine of, allegation that Celtic idea of 
immortality embodied Oriental conception of, 
doctrine of, not held by Celts in same way as by Pythagoras 

and the Orientals, 81; 
Welsh Taliessin who became an eagle, 100. 
See Tuan mac Carell 

Trendorn. Conor's servant, 199; 
spies on Deirdre, 200; 
is blinded in one eye by Naisi, 200; 
declares Deirdre's beauty to Conor, 200 

Treon (tray'on). Father of Vivionn, 287 

Tristan and Iseult. Tale of Dermot and Grania paralleled in 
story as told by Heinrich von Freiberg, 299 

Troyes. See Chrestien de Troyes 

Tuan mac Carell. The legend of, recorded in MS. "Book of the 
Dun Cow," 97; 
king of all deer in Ireland, 99; 
name of "gods" given to the People of Dana by, 104 


Tuatha De Danann (thoo'a-haw day danawn'). Literal meaning, 
"the folk of the god whose mother is Dana," 103 

Tumuli. See Dolmens, 53 

Turenn. The quest of the Sons of, 113-116; 

reference to Lugh in the quest of the Sons of, 123 

Twrch Trwyth (toorch troo'-with). A king in shape of a 
monstrous boar, 391 

Tyler. Reference of, in his "Primitive Culture," to festival of 
Sun-god, Tezcatlipoca, 77 

Tylwyth Teg. Welsh fairies; 
Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the, 353 

Tyren. Sister to Murna, 266; 
Ullan, husband of, 266; 
changed by a woman of the Fairy Folk into a hound, 266 


Ugainy the Great (oo'gany). Ruler of Ireland, &c, husband of 
Kesair, father of Laery and Covac, 152 

466 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Ulster. Kingdom of, founded in reign of Kimbay, 150; 
Dithorba's five sons expelled from, 151; 
Dectera's gift of Cuchulain to, 182; 
Conor, King of, 180, 190, 191; 
Felim, son of Dall, a lord of, 196; 
Maev's war against province of, to secure Brown Bull of 

Quelgny, 202-251; 
under the Debility curse, 205; 

passes of, guarded by Cuchulain of Murthemney, 206; 
aroused by Sualtam, 221, 222; 
Macha's curse lifted from men of, 222; 
Ailell and Maev make a seven years' peace with, 225 ; 
curse of Macha again on the men of, 229; 
Wee Folk swarm into 248, 249 

Ultonian-s. Great fair of, visited by Crundchu, 178; 
his boast of Macha's swiftness, 179; 
the debility of, caused by Macha's curse, 179, 180; 
[457] the debility of, descends on Ulster, 205; 

Cycle, events of, supposed to have happened about time of 
Christ, 252 

Underworld. The cult of, found existing by Celts when they 
got to Western Europe, 82; 
Dis, or Pluto, god of, 88; 
Math, god of, 349; 
identical with Land of the Dead, 130 

Usna. Father of Naisi, 198; 

sons of, inquired for by Conor, 199 

Uther Pendragon. Father of Arthur, 337 


Valley of the Thrushes. Oism's spell broken in, 274 

Veil of Illusion, The. Thrown over Caradawc by Caswallan, 


Vercingetorix. Celtic chief; 

his defeat by Caesar, his death, 40 

Vergil. Evidence of Celtic ancestry in name, 21. 
SeeFeryllt, 413 

Vitra. The God of Evil in Vedantic mythology, related to 
Cenchos, the Footless, 97 

Vivionn (Bebhionn). A young giantess, daughter of Treon, from 
the Land of Maidens, 287; 
slain by iEda, and buried in the place called the Ridge of the 
Dead, 288 

Voyage of Maeldun. See Maeldun 


Wace. Author of "Li Romans de Brut," 338 

Wales. Arthurian saga in, 343, 344; 
prophecy of Taliesin about, 385 

Wave of Cleena. See Tonn Cliodhna 

Wee Folk, The. Fergus mac Leda and, 246-249; 
Iubdan, King of, 246 

Well of Kesair. Mac Cecht visits, 175 

Well of Knowledge. Equivalent, Connla's Well. 
Sinend's fatal visit to, 129 

468 Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race 

Welsh Fairies. See Tylwyth Teg 

Welsh Literature. The Arthur in the Arthurian saga wholly 
different from the Arthur in, 336; 
compared with Irish, 344; 
tales of Arthur in, 386 

Welsh MS. Society. Llewellyn Sion's "Barddas" edited by J.A. 
Williams ap Ithel for, 332 

Welsh Romance. The character of, 395, 396 

Weston, Miss Jessie L. Reference to her studies on the 
Arthurian saga, 341 

William the Conqueror. Reference to, in connexion with 
Arthurian saga, 343 

Wolfram von Eschenbach. His story of the Grail, 407 


Yellow Book of Lecan. Tale of Cuchulain and Connla in, 192 

Youth. The maiden who gave the Love Spot to Dermot, 292 

Yspaddaden Penkawr (is-pa-dhad'en). Father of Olwen, 387; 
the tasks he set Kilhwch, 390-392; 
slain by Goreu son of Custennin, 392 


Zimmer, Dr. Heinrich. On the source of the Arthurian saga, 343 
Zoroaster. Religion of magic invented by, 61 



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